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Canada offers another $31-million in aid to flood-stricken Pakistan

Canada is offering an additional $31-million in aid to Pakistan to help it deal with the flood crisis.

House Leader John Baird made the announcement in Toronto during a ceremony honouring the 63rd anniversary of Pakistan's independence on Saturday.

The funding comes on top of $2-million announced last month.

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The floods have killed about 1,500 people and left some 20 million homeless.

"The situation is still unfolding," Mr. Baird said of the flooding that began more than three weeks ago. "And of course it's not getting better, it's getting worse."

A fresh surge of floodwater swelled the Indus River Saturday, threatening previously spared cities and towns in the south of the country.

The United Nations has appealed for an initial $460-million to provide relief, but has said the country will need billions to rebuild once the flood recedes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Pakistan soon, possibly over the weekend.

A spokesman said the Canadian International Development Agency has allocated $4.5 to the Red Cross, the United Nation's World Food Program, and Canadian NGOs.

The rest of the money will be allocated based on need, determined through reports from the United Nations.

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A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the $8-million it has promised will be used in partnership with Canadian companies to deploy modular bridges to Pakistan.

The rest of the money will go toward infrastructure projects, which will be determined based on need.

Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis criticized the amount of time it took for the government to pledge the money.

Mr. Karygiannis called the funding "a drop in the bucket," and called for the government to match dollar-for-dollar donations raised by Canadians.

He said the government needs to speed up the process of reunited family members, and should offer the help of the Canadian military's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

"I think we've been one of the fastest in the world," Mr. Baird said in response to the criticism by Mr. Karygiannis.

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Mr. Baird said that dealing with flooding lacks the same immediacy as earthquake or a tsunami, which devastates immediately.

"As the flooding rises it obviously is getting worse on a day by day basis," he said. "Our team in Islamabad is following very, very closely. And we're there in a major way."

Saheb Zada, Pakistan's Consul General, praised the government's commitment to helping the flood-ravaged nation and dismissed criticism that its response was slow.

"Canada has always stood by Pakistan," he said, noting that Canada was one of the first to respond during the devastating earthquake that rocked Pakistan in 2005.

The Canadian government contributed more than $130-million to Pakistan during that crisis, Zada said.

Zada said Pakistani government would make an official request for the aid of DART very soon.

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