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Death toll in floods in southern Pakistan climbs to 70
( 2003-07-28 16:00) (Agencies)

Three rescue workers and a newspaper reporter were missing in floods in southern Pakistan that have killed 70 people and left thousands of others homeless, relief officials said Monday.

Heavy monsoon rains have been lashing parts of southern Sindh province since Thursday.

Seventy people have died in Sindh since the rains began, said Ali Nawaz Mallah, a provincial government relief official. An emergency has been declared in the worst-hit districts of Badin, Thatta and Tharparkar, where most of the casualties occurred.

Eleven people were reported missing on Sunday, said Salahuddin Haider, a Sindh government spokesman.

An official of the Edhi Foundation, Pakistan's largest emergency relief group, two other rescue workers and a local reporter traveling with them went missing on Sunday, said Abdul Sattar Edhi, head of the organization.

``There has been no communication with them for the past 22 hours,'' Edhi said. It was not clear whether they were among the 11 reported officially missing.

The missing relief worker, Faisal Edhi, was traveling in a boat to visit food relief centers set up by the foundation in Badin. Faisal Edhi is the son of the organization's chief.

``I fear they may have drowned,'' Abdul Sattar Edhi said.

An emergency was declared in the three districts, where monsoon rains triggered floods that damaged thousands of homes and crops including rice and cotton fields.

Sindh Gov. Ishrad al-Ibad set up a relief fund of 50 million rupees (US$80,000) on Sunday to help thousands of villagers made homeless by the flooding.

Army, navy and paramilitary Rangers have been called in to rescue people marooned in the floods.

A Sindh government spokesman Sunday said the troops, aided by helicopters and boats, helped about 25,000 people to safety. He estimated that another 25,000 people were still stranded.

There was no rain Monday in the flood-hit areas.

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