His parents are out of harm’s way -- this Jehangir Khan can say with certainty, and no small measure of relief.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/8/2010 (4003 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

At least 100 people from all different communities got together in Crescent Drive Park in support of flood relief in Pakistan.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

At least 100 people from all different communities got together in Crescent Drive Park in support of flood relief in Pakistan.

His parents are out of harm’s way -- this Jehangir Khan can say with certainty, and no small measure of relief.

But the Winnipegger says that certainty isn’t shared by his relatives and friends in Pakistan, still searching for family members in the wake of devastating flooding across a fifth of the country.

The Pakistani community in Winnipeg marked the anniversary of the country’s 1947 independence with a fundraiser Saturday to aid the estimated 20 million people affected by ongoing floods, the worst disaster to hit the country in decades.

"Yesterday I talked to my father...he said he’d never seen this kind of flood in his life," said Khan, a store manager in Winnipeg.

A steady stream of friends, supporters and community members gathered at Crescent Drive Park Saturday evening to kick off what they hope will be a massive fundraising effort for the disaster. By evening’s end they’d collected $30,000, said organizer Hammad Khan, but the end goal is $1 million.

"We’re going to do a lot more fundraising events," he said. "This is just a step in the door."

An estimated 1,500 people have died in Pakistan’s flooding to date. On Saturday the country’s prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said 20 million people have been affected, six million more than a previous estimate by the United Nations. Pakistan has also confirmed its first case of cholera following the flooding.

Winnipeg supporters huddled in throngs beneath a park shelter or under umbrellas as community members and politicians spoke to the crowd Saturday. Attendees said a little rain was nothing compared to what Pakistanis are going through: the situation was like "one per cent, or half a percentage of what people are feeling back home in the flood situation," said Hammad Khan.

The Canadian government announced an additional $31 million in flood relief funding for Pakistan aid Saturday, on top of $2 million announced previously.

The province of Manitoba will double its contribution, Radisson MLA Bidhu Jha told the crowd Saturday evening, from $100,000 to $200,000.

Abdul Haee Mian made a donation with three-year-old granddaughter Aleena at his side.

Mian and his wife Ismat emigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 1971 and raised their children here, but still have friends in Pakistan.

"They are so upset," said Ismat Mian. "Everyone’s upset. We can’t do anything. All we can do is help them collect the money."

The flooding brings to mind another recent tragedy for Jehangir Khan, who lost his sister, uncle and other families members in the 2005 earthquake that hit Pakistan.

"I hardly can watch the news, to be honest," he said.

Flood devastation has also destroyed Pakistan’s communications system, he said, making it difficult for family and friends abroad to know the status of their loved ones.

Khan grew up and studied in the hard-hit Swat Valley, and although his parents are safe in the northern community of Abbottabad, he’s still worried for loved ones in Swat.

"Lots, lots of school friends, they are still missing, their families," he said.

lindsey.wiebe@freepress.mb.ca