Pakistan sends first planeload of aid to flood-hit Iran

Pakistan’s C-130 aircraft can be seen here carrying relief goods for victims of the Iranian floods which killed at least 70 people. The aircraft landed in Iran's Ahwaz city on Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy – Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry)
Updated 11 April 2019

Pakistan sends first planeload of aid to flood-hit Iran

  • Pakistani C-130 aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Ahwaz city on Wednesday, another plane to be dispatched tomorrow
  • Prime Minister Khan on Sunday announced all necessary humanitarian assistance for Iran as floods kill at least 70 people

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani C-130 aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Iran’s Ahwaz city on Wednesday, the foreign office said, to assist victims of floods that have killed at least 70 people and inundated some 1,900 communities.
The flood disaster in Iran, arising from exceptionally heavy rainfall since March 19, has left aid agencies struggling to cope and seen 86,000 people moved to emergency shelters.
The Pakistani foreign office said in a statement a first plane carrying relief goods had landed in Iran and another plane would leave tomorrow, Thursday. Riffat Masood, Islamabad’s Ambassador to Tehran, handed over more than 32 tons of relief material, including blankets, tents and medical kits, to Iranian officials on Wednesday.
On Monday, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif on the phone and informed him that as a “gesture of goodwill,”  Pakistani Prime Minister Khan had instructed that two planeloads of relief goods be sent immediately to the cities of Ahwaz and Khorumabad in Iran.
“Relief assistance by Pakistan would aim at meeting some of the urgent needs of the flood-affected population in Iran,” the foreign office said in a statement.
On Sunday, Khan had announced plans to offer all necessary humanitarian assistance to Iran.
“Our prayers go to the people of Iran as they deal with unprecedented flooding,” Khan said in a tweet. “We stand ready to provide any humanitarian assistance required.”
US sanctions have largely prevented the Iranian Red Crescent from obtaining any foreign financial aid to assist victims of flooding. Iran’s state budget is already stretched under US sanctions on energy and banking sectors.
Iran acted on Saturday to evacuate more towns and villages threatened by floods after continued rain in the southwest.


Hospitals full as second wave of virus grips Pakistan 

Updated 25 November 2020

Hospitals full as second wave of virus grips Pakistan 

  • Hospitals are having to turn away suspected Covid-19 patients, with the potential for a major health care crisis increasing daily
  • Around 95 percent beds occupied, only a few hospitals still have capacity, Pakistan Medical Association says   

ISLAMABAD: Intensive care units across Pakistan are nearing capacity as a second, deadlier wave of the coronavirus builds momentum and officials struggle to counter public indifference to the pandemic.
Several doctors told AFP on Wednesday that hospitals are having to turn away suspected Covid-19 patients, with the potential for a major health care crisis increasing daily.
"The coming two weeks are critical and our situation is going to worsen," said Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association.
"Around 95 percent of the beds are occupied. Only a few hospitals still have capacity -- but most of the hospitals are full and refusing to take more patients."
Sajjad said the virus was proving "far more lethal" this time around. Authorities this week ordered the closure of educational institutes and banned indoor dining at restaurants.
The new outbreak has surprised Pakistan, where for months many have been saying the pandemic was done.
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which never imposed the sort of sweeping lockdowns seen in wealthier countries, had boasted of controlling the virus but is again urging people to follow safeguards.
Compared to neighbours Iran and India, Pakistan dodged the worst of the pandemic's first wave, something health experts have said was due partly to the young population and the fact many Pakistanis travel little around the country.
Pakistan has confirmed more than 382,000 cases including over 7,800 deaths since the virus arrived in late February.
By contrast India, with a population five times the size, has recorded about 17 times more deaths.
Faisal Sultan, the prime minister's special assistant on health, said the "death ratio" -- the number of people with Covid-19 who die from the disease -- was rising, and officials warn that more and more people are testing positive.
"The current wave of Covid-19 is more lethal," Sultan said.
"The pandemic is fast spreading and we should all be concerned".
Pakistan's relative nonchalance toward the virus -- and the government's inconsistent messaging to stop it -- was highlighted Saturday when several hundred thousand men massed in Lahore for the funeral of hardline cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
The firebrand had died suddenly after suffering from fever and breathing difficulties, but no virus test or autopsy were performed.
Most mourners were not wearing masks and the government, which fears upsetting conservative Pakistan's powerful religious right, said nothing.
Since mid-October, massive crowds have also gathered at opposition rallies in major cities including Gujranwala, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar, with most attendees flouting mask rules.
In Lahore, Khizer Hayat, who chairs Punjab province's Young Doctors Association, said ventilators were running short and critical care units were full.
"Coronavirus is at its worst right now in Pakistan," Hayat said, urging the government to impose full lockdowns.