Even as Pakistani and international relief officials scrambled to save people and property, they despaired that the nation's worst natural calamity had ruined just about every physical strand that knit this country together - roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications.
The destruction could set Pakistan back many years, if not decades, further weaken its feeble civilian administration and add to the burdens on its military. It seems certain to distract from American requests for Pakistan to battle Taliban insurgents, who threatened foreign aid workers delivering flood relief on Thursday. It is already disrupting vital supply lines to American forces in Afghanistan.
The flooding, which began with the arrival of the annual monsoons late last month, has affected about one-fifth of the country — nearly 62,000 square miles . What the waters have not destroyed, rescue workers have been forced to, in some cases.
“Infrastructure all the way from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Sindh is ruined...It will take years to rebuild”, said Cmdr. Iqbal Zahid, a Navy commander in charge of rescue operations in Sindh. The government's estimates of the damage are equally grim. More than 5,000 miles of roads and railways have been washed away, along with some 7,000 schools and more than 400 health facilities.
One estimate, in a joint study from Ball State University and the University of Tennessee, put the total cost of the flood damage at $7.1 billion. That is nearly a fifth of Pakistan's budget, and it exceeds the total cost of last year's five-year aid package to Pakistan passed by Congress.