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Originally published Friday, August 20, 2010 at 10:05 PM

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Pakistan floodwaters roar south to low-lying plains cities

Surging waters are shifting flood damage southward in Pakistan, as the water level rises at one of the main flood barriers north ...

The New York Times

Interactive | Pakistan floods

MULTAN, Pakistan — Surging waters are shifting flood damage southward in Pakistan, as the water level rises at one of the main flood barriers north of the city of Hyderabad, officials said Friday.

The next two days will be critical for the city's 1.5 million people, but embankments strengthened in the past 10 days offer some protection, said an officer at the flood-control room there, who gave his name as Maj. Ehsan.

"We have done a lot of work, making sandbags and stone pitches to build up the embankments," he said.

The Indus River, which has flooded five to seven miles beyond its banks, is flowing at a rate of more than 700,000 cubic feet a second, he said, which is expected to rise to 800,000 cubic feet per second in the next 24 hours at the flood barrier, he said.

Villages upriver are being inundated, and although most of the population has been evacuated from low-lying areas, the military was getting phone calls from people stranded in their homes, and was sending out rescue boats, he said.

The floods, which have stricken about one-fifth of Pakistan's territory, were set off by torrential monsoon rains in the northern highlands that began July 28. Water tore through the upper part of the country and is spreading out through the flood plains of central Punjab and southern Sindh provinces on its way to the Arabian Sea.

On Friday, government officials warned that high tides in the Arabian Sea expected next week will add to the flooding in the coastal areas south of Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has accepted an offer of $5 million in aid offered by archrival India, after several days of hesitation. Receiving assistance from India is politically delicate in Pakistan, and the government can expect criticism from some of the religious and nationalist parties that support the fight for an independent Kashmir, the contested region split between India and Pakistan.

As of Friday, the United Nations had received more than $263 million, plus more than $54 million in additional pledges.

"This is not just Pakistan's hour of need; Pakistan is facing weeks, months and years of need," said U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Haroon said the aid offered by some 70 countries was "heartening" and "a good beginning," though he stressed that the country will need much more help in the months and years to come.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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