Hundreds of thousands of people fled an ever-expanding flood zone on Tuesday as Pakistan's leaders called for a greater international response to what they say is the worst natural disaster in the country's history.
Although the flooding was concentrated in northwestern Pakistan when it began two weeks ago, it has spread south in recent days to inundate areas of Sindh and southern portions of the central province of Punjab. Those regions are heavily agricultural, and the destruction of millions of acres of crops could lead to a food shortage, development officials say.
The power shortages that plague the country could also worsen after a major natural gas field was submerged on Tuesday. Concern is growing that the disaster could lead to civil unrest.
Already, 14 million people have been affected by the flooding, and the Pakistani government has conceded that it does not have the resources to tackle the crisis. But officials say they have been disappointed by the relatively small amount of international assistance that has been offered.
In Washington, US officials said they would provide an additional $20 million in aid, bringing the total US contribution to $55 million. They also said that in response to Pakistan's need for more airlift capacity, the USS Peleliu, with about 16 heavy-lift helicopters, was awaiting final approval from the Pakistani government and Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates to dock in Karachi.
The United States, which has provided the most assistance thus far, is also trying to coordinate aid from other donors. Afghanistan has sent four Mi-17 helicopters along with four tons of medical supplies, and the United Arab Emirates and Japan have pledged helicopters, US officials said.
The Pakistani government and the Obama administration, whose relationship has been strained in the past, have been at pains to praise each other's efforts.
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