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UCI faculty pledge to help Pakistan

The floods there have killed more than 1,600 people and left millions homeless.

August 20, 2010|By Joanna Clay, joanna.clay@latimes.com

The devastating floods in Pakistan, which have killed more than 1,600 people, have been compared to this decade's Asian tsunami and the earthquakes that struck China and Haiti.

Although the death toll is lower, the widespread destruction of the region is far worse than the results of other natural disasters, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently told the Los Angeles Times.

While U.N. officials have said 2 million to 5 million people are wandering homeless, Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani offers a different and much more staggering figure: 20 million.

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UC Irvine faculty responded to the tragedy this week and pledged to help the relief efforts.

"A disaster of biblical proportions has just afflicted the primary target population in this war, and the U.N. has requested the equivalent of pocket change to help get the relief rolling in and save untold lives…," Mark LeVine, professor of Middle Eastern history, said in a press release. "If we don't step up to fill the void, it's pretty clear who will and what that will mean for Pakistan's future and ours."

Soroosh Sorooshian, a distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering, is focused on the lack of water and a stable government in the ravaged region.

He has been tracking Pakistan's rainfall for his research via satellite dishes. The majority of his research at UCI is focused on surface hydrology, rainfall and runoff.

"You're talking about 3 to 4 million people, and when you don't have the infrastructure, the water supplies, the roads, unfortunately, the casualties could be huge," Sorooshian said. "While major monsoons do happen, the effects of the current floods could be far worse because populations have surged in these once-rural areas. People have to have water to live."

On Sunday, the U.N. secretary general announced that the global response to the victims of Pakistan's floods has is not been enough.

"I want to send a message to the world that these unprecedented floods demand unprecedented assistance," he told The Times. "The flood waves must be matched with waves of global support."

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