ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani military stepped up rescue efforts as floods wreaked havoc in more districts of the country's eastern Punjab province on Friday, affecting 1.9 million people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
In neighboring India-controlled parts of Kashmir, meanwhile, flood waters started receding but triggered concerns about the possible spread of disease in devastated areas.
The severe monsoon floods, which began Sept. 3 in divided Kashmir, have so far killed 274 people in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, while 200 have died in the India-controlled part of the disputed Himalayan region.
Another wave of flooding is expected to hit southern Pakistan next week.
After destroying hundreds of villages in the Jhang district this week, the floods on Friday hit three more Punjab districts — Multan, Bahwalpur and Rahim Yar Khan. Troops air-dropped food rations as three more deaths were registered there, according to disaster management spokeswoman Reema Zuberi.
At a Friday meeting of Pakistan's Cabinet, officials told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that recent rains and floods had killed 274 people and damaged 43,000 homes. Sharif was also told that the floods affected 1.9 million people in the country's 10 districts, according to a statement issued by the government.
The Pakistani army said its helicopters were plucking people from rooftops and air-dropping food in flood-hit areas. The military has rescued nearly 30,000 people with helicopters and boats, while some 48,000 were rescued by civilian services, said Ali Imam Syed, an official with emergency services in eastern Punjab.
Sharif tasked authorities with taking measures to "protect" the southern Sindh province, where flood waters were expected next week, the government statement said.
In neighboring India, the military and private doctors set up medical camps to treat flood-affected people in its part of Kashmir, where water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhea were reported.
Shakila Butt, who runs the Al Ameen hospital in the Indian part of Kashmir, appealed to authorities and non-governmental organizations to supply medicine, saying she expected an influx of patients in the coming days.
"There are chances of epidemic diseases," she said.
The Indian government said 80 army medical teams treated over 21,500 patients this week at field hospitals in Avantipur, Pattan and Anantnag in the Kashmir valley.
The Indian army also set up 19 relief camps in Srinagar and elsewhere. Authorities in India said 84 transport aircraft and helicopters and 30,000 troops were participating in rescue operations.
Pakistan and India have a history of uneasy ties, but relations have improved in recent years. Each side has offered to help the other recover from the floods, the worst to hit Pakistan since 2010, when some 1,700 people died.
Sharma reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Merajuddin and Shonal Ganguly in Srinagar, India, and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.