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Dam failure in Pakistan leaves at least 54 dead

Hundreds missing in coastal town

NANO VILLAGE, Pakistan -- Troops and rescue workers raced to a coastal town ruined when heavy rains burst a large dam, sending water surging through the streets and sweeping people into the Arabian Sea. At least 54 were dead and hundreds missing, officials said yesterday.

Coast guard units combed the area with fishing nets, pulling bodies out of the flood waters in the worst of several disasters caused by extreme winter weather in Pakistan over the past week or so.

The 485-foot-long Shakidor Dam burst late Thursday near the remote Pasni village in Baluchistan Province, about 1,180 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad.

The torrent of water from the ruined dam swept trucks out to sea and destroyed telephone lines, roads, and eight bridges, according to officials and witnesses.

The exact human toll was unclear yesterday.

Pakistan's military said 1,200 people had been rescued from the flood waters, while another 500 were removed from the area.

Some 400 remained missing, said army spokesman Mudasser Butt.

A provincial Cabinet minister, Sher Jan Baluch, said that the number of missing ranged from 400 to 500 people and that he feared the death toll might rise, though some of the missing might be sheltering in homes or in the mountains above flooded areas.

About 3,000 troops backed by helicopters, coast guard cutters, and C-130 transport planes had reached Pasni by yesterday with food, medicine, and tents.

Continued heavy rain has hampered the search for survivors, Baluch said, adding that troops had diverted the floodwaters to save nearby towns.

The flood waters also hit Nano village, washing away crops and damaging homes, but there were no casualties, said resident Ilyas Khan, 32.

The water damaged much of the Karachi-Pasni highway, a main road in the area, and made travel difficult.

The Shakidor dam was built in 2003 to provide irrigation for nearby farms.

Apart from the dam accident, the weather has left dozens of people dead or missing around Pakistan, according to officials.

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