Pakistani president returns to floods

Photo Gallery: Thousands leave homes.

Pakistani flood affected families sit outside their tents at a camp in Sukkur, Pakistan  on Sunday,
A Pakistani flood affected child sleeps at his makeshift tent in Azakhel near Nowshera, Pakistan on
A Pakistani flood affected man carries his belongings as he wade through floodwater in Azakhel near
In this photo provided by the United Nations, an aerial view of the flooding in the province of Punj
In this photo provided by the United Nations, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's helicopter flies
A Pakistani flood affected woman sits on the bed as she with her family members take shelter on high
Holding onto her baby with her teeth, a Pakistani woman tries to climb the side of a truck to flee f
A Pakistani flood affected family react to the loss of some family members in a deeply flooded area
Pakistani flood affected people stand on the remains of a bridge washed away by heave flood in Ghazi
MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan — President Asif Ali Zardari returned Tuesday to flood-ravaged Pakistan, where he faced a storm of criticism for visiting Europe as his country was gripped by its worst natural disaster.
His arrival came as thousands of people fled a major city in central Pakistan as rivers nearby swelled.
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Flooding in Asia affects millions; hundreds dead
The UN, relying on Pakistani figures, says the number of people affected by flooding over the past two weeks is 13.8 million — more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, although the death toll in each of those disasters was much higher than the 1,500 people killed in the floods.
In Punjab province, the normally bustling city of Muzaffargarh looked largely deserted Tuesday after large numbers of people left following flood warnings the previous evening. Many men, however, stayed behind to guard homes and businesses.
The local government hospital had staffing shortages because many doctors and other workers had decided to leave.
"We have put sandbags around our hospital to protect it from any possible floodwaters, but we do not know whether it will help," said Ashiq Malik, a hospital official.