Heavy rains trigger floods, killing 60 in northwest Pakistan; dozens still missing

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Rivers burst their banks during deadly monsoon rains lashing Pakistan, washing away streets, battering a dam and submerging thousands of homes, officials said Thursday.

The hardest hit region was the northwest, where at least 60 people died and hundreds of thousands were stranded in the region's worst flooding in decades.

Two elderly men clung to a fence post and each other as a raging torrent swept over their heads in the northwest Peshawar area, footage on Pakistan's Dunya TV showed. It was unclear whether they survived.

People were forced to trudge through knee-deep water in some streets in the Swat Valley. A newly constructed part of a dam in the Charsadda district collapsed, while the U.N. said it had reports that 5,000 homes were underwater in that area.

At least 10 of 60 people reported dead in the previous 24 hours died near Peshawar when their homes crumbled.

Dozens of people were reported missing, including at least nine Chinese construction workers in the Kohistan area. Some 200 other Chinese workers were trapped amid the downpour, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, the northwest province.

He said it was the worst floods in the region since 1929 and estimated 400,000 people were stranded in various villages.

"A rescue operation using helicopters cannot be conducted due to the bad weather, while there are only 48 rescue boats available for rescue," he said, noting weather forecasts predict more rain over the next 24 hours.

Monsoon season often leads to widespread flooding in Pakistan, imperiling residents in low-lying villages. The poorest residents are often the ones who live in the most flood-prone areas because they can't afford safer land.

Southwest Baluchistan province has also been hit hard by the recent rains. Last week, flash floods in that region killed at least 41 people and swept away thousands of homes. A U.N. statement Thursday said 150,000 people had been affected there.

The U.N. said Punjab province in Pakistan's east was also hit by some flooding. The tribal belt, a semiautonomous region along the Afghan border, also was affected, but the severity was unclear, the U.N. statement said.

Crops were soaked in farmlands throughout the country.

The U.N. said the humanitarian community was trying to put together a proper response, but the rains were making many roads impassable, complicating efforts to assess needs.

The torrential rain is also a suspected factor in a plane crash in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, that killed all 152 passengers on board Wednesday.