JHANG, Pakistan — Thousands of people fled their homes in Pakistan on Wednesday as monsoon flooding that has already inundated the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir coursed down onto the plains, causing a major river to breach its banks.
The flooding began earlier this month in Kashmir, where it has caused landslides and submerged much of the main city of Srinagar, on the Indian-administered side. The death toll from the flooding in both countries has climbed to at least 457.
The rains have washed away houses, bridges, communication equipment and crops. Pakistani and Indian troops say they have evacuated nearly 75,000 people. The floods are the worst to hit Pakistan since 2010, when some 1,700 people died.
Survivors have waded through waist-deep water to escape the floods, with many carrying children and household items on their shoulders as others drag their livestock along behind them. Hundreds of others remain stranded on rooftops, waving for help to passing helicopters.
Haleema Bibi, 65, sobbed as she climbed out of a boat in Pakistan's eastern Jhang province. Her granddaughter was to be married in the coming days but the floodwaters swept her dowry away. She appealed to the rescuers to go back to the village, saying her grandson was stranded there.
"I have lost everything," she said.
The Chenab River breached an embankment in Jhang early Wednesday following a warning the day before, said Ahmad Kamal, the spokesman for Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority. The minister for water and power, Khwaja Mohammad Asif, told parliament on Tuesday that such a breach could force nearly 700,000 people from their homes.
Pakistani and Indian troops have been using boats and helicopters to drop food supplies to stranded families and evacuate victims. More than 1.5 million people have been affected, with thousands losing their homes to the rising water.
"We are focusing more on women, elderly people and children," said Ahsan Ali, a rescue official in the Jhang district.
At least 257 people have died in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, while another 200 have perished in India, officials said.
The inundated Kashmir region in the northern Himalayas is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Two of the three wars the countries have fought since their independence from Britain in 1947 have been over Kashmir.
From the air Srinagar looked like a giant lake, with row after row of rooftops peeking out of the murky water. Frightened survivors clung to tree tops and waited for rescue helicopters to save them.
An Associated Press reporter was trapped on the third floor of a three-story home for a fourth day waiting for rescue boats to evacuate residents from the Rajbagh neighborhood, one of the worst-hit in the city.
Rescue boats were picking up relatives of army and government officials before saving stranded civilians, he said in a brief text message.
Tempers frayed as residents grew increasingly anxious over the fate of loved ones who are still missing, and in one Srinagar neighborhood angry survivors heckled a former government minister and scuffled with rescue workers.
"They are asking for bribes to rescue us," said one man, who was trembling with rage.
Officials said it was dangerous for rescue boats to reach some parts of the city.
"Our entire effort has been focused on ensuring that we have adequate assets to rescue people," Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in an interview with CNN-IBN news channel.
Naqvi reported from New Delhi. Associated Press Writer Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.