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August 10, 2010

Clinging to rooftops

Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of other people are inaccessible: clinging to rooftops, swept away," Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said. "The rains are continuing," he said, and the Sukkur dam, which holds back the Indus River from the agricultural plains of Sindh province, "is in danger." He added: "If it breaks, the situation will reach an even more catastrophic level."

Holbrooke said the administration is calling on other governments to help and is trying to mobilize the business community while pressing for individual contributions via a text-message system the State Department has set up. But, he said, "I'm concerned that perhaps people think that it's just another one of the endless tragedies that Pakistan endures."

The unprecedented floodwaters that have overtaken villages throughout the northwest part of the country are quickly rising across the southern plains as the Indus, Kabul and Swat rivers overflow their banks.

With the monsoon rain showing no sign of abating, the government estimates that 1,600 people have been killed, 650,00 homes have been destroyed, and more than 50,000 square miles are under water in a disaster still in its early stages.

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