Pakistani president returns to floods

Photo Gallery: Thousands leave homes.

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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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.