CHARSADDA, PAKISTAN (REUTERS) – Torrential rains and flooding have submerged a third of the country and killed more than 1,100 people, including 380 children, in Pakistan, where army helicopters plucked stranded families and dropped food packages to inaccessible areas as the UN appealed on Tuesday (Aug 30) for US$160 million (S$223.5 million) in aid.

The historic deluge, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains, has impacted 33 million people, destroying homes and businesses, infrastructure and crops.

The country has received nearly 190 per cent more rain in the quarter through August this year, totalling 390.7 millimetres, than the 30-year average. Sindh province, with a population of 50 million, was hardest hit, getting 466 per cent more rain than the 30-year average.

“One third of the country is literally under water,” Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman told Reuters, describing the scale of the disaster.

At least 380 children were among the dead, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told reporters during a briefing at his office in Islamabad.

“Pakistan is awash in suffering,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message, as the United Nations launched an appeal for US$160 million to help the South Asian nation. “The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids – the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding.”

Guterres will head to Pakistan next week to see the effects of the “unprecedented climate catastrophe”, a UN spokesman said.

He said the scale of the climate disaster commanded the world’s collective attention.

Nearly 300 stranded people, including some tourists, were airlifted in northern Pakistan on Tuesday, a state-run disaster management agency said in a statement, while over 50,000 people were moved to two government shelters in the northwest.

“Life is very painful here,” 63-year-old villager Hussain Sadiq, who was at one of the shelters with his parents and five children, told Reuters, adding that his family had “lost everything”.

Hussain said medical assistance was insufficient, and diarrhoea and fever common at the shelter.

Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the northern valley of Swat and reviewed rescue and relief operations, saying that “rehabilitation will take a long, long time”.

The United States will provide US$30 million in support for Pakistan’s flood response through USAID, its embassy in Islamabad said in a statement, saying the country was “deeply saddened by the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes throughout Pakistan”.