More rain may mean fresh misery for Pakistan flood victims.

More rain may mean fresh misery for Pakistan flood victims
By the CNN Wire Staff
August 12, 2010 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)

NEW: The death toll now tops 1,343, Pakistani authorities say
NEW: Cost to restore agriculture sector may be in the billions
Pakistan faces food shortage
The U.N. launches a flash appeal for $460 million in aid
(CNN) -- The Indus River is expected to crest Thursday, bringing fresh misery to a nation where torrential rains have snatched lives and livelihoods.

From the Swat Valley in the north to Sindh province in the south, as many as 15 million Pakistanis have been affected in the nation's worst natural disaster.

By Thursday, the death toll had risen to 1,343, the Pakistan Disaster Authority said.

It said 1,588 people have been injured and 352,291 people have been rescued. More than 722,600 houses and 4,600 villages have been damaged or destroyed.

Mauriizio Giuliano, spokesman for the United Nations' humanitarian operation in Pakistan, told CNN that the cost to restore Pakistan's agriculture sector, including its infrastructure, will be steep.

"It's too early to give an exact number. The recovery cost will most likely be in the billions," he said.

Many Pakistanis now face severe food shortages, and aid agencies stepped up appeals for global assistance. The United Nations launched a flash appeal for $460 million in humanitarian assistance, and the United States pledged another $20 million on top of the $35 million already pledged.

The Pakistani military has 55 helicopters and 621 boats taking part in aid and rescue efforts.

For many parts of southern Pakistan, the worst is yet to come.

If the Indus River crests, it will spread water even further, damaging more crops and infrastructure. The Pakistani meteorological department put the likelihood of the river reaching flood level at "very high to exceptionally high."

"The crop has been lost and it is a race against time to ensure the next sowing season can be met," said United Nations special envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert.

John Holmes, U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said the disaster is "one of the most challenging that any country has faced in recent years."

Although the death toll is lower, the 15 million people affected are more than those affected in the 2005 Pakistan earthquakes, the 2004 Indonesia tsunami and the January earthquake in Haiti combined.

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