MINGORA, Pakistan: Army helicopters flew sorties over cut-off areas in Pakistan's mountainous north on Wednesday and rescue parties fanned out across waterlogged plains in the south as misery mounted for millions trapped by the worst floods in the South Asian country's history.

Monsoon rains have submerged a third of Pakistan, claiming at least 1,160 lives since June and unleashing powerful floods that have washed away swathes of vital crops and damaged or destroyed more than a million homes.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it "a monsoon on steroids" as he launched an international appeal on Tuesday night for $160 million in emergency funding.

Officials say more than 33 million people are affected — one in every seven Pakistanis — and it will cost more than $10 billion to rebuild.

The focus for now, however, is reaching tens of thousands still stranded on hills and in valleys in the north, as well as remote villages in the south and west.

Get the latest news
delivered to your inbox
Sign up for The Manila Times’ daily newsletters
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

"We appeal to the government to help end our miseries at the soonest," said Mohammad Safar, 38, outside his submerged home in Shikarpur, in Pakistan's southeastern province of Sindh, on Wednesday.

"The water must be drained out from here immediately so we can go back to our homes," he added.

There is so much water, however, that there is nowhere for it to drain.

Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman described the country as "like a fully soaked sponge," incapable of absorbing any more rain.

Pakistan has received twice its usual monsoon rainfall, weather authorities say, but Balochistan and Sindh provinces have seen more than four times the average of the last three decades.

Padidan, a small town in Sindh, has been drenched with an astonishing 1.75 meters (70 inches) since June.

Pakistan receives heavy and often destructive rains during its annual monsoon season, which are crucial for agriculture and water supplies. But such intense downpours have not been seen for three decades.

Officials have blamed climate change, which is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather around the world.

Earlier this year, much of the nation was in the grip of a drought and heat wave, with temperatures hitting 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sindh.

The latest disaster could not have come at a worse time for Pakistan, where the economy is in free fall.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif promised aid donors that any funding would be responsibly spent.

"I want to give my solemn pledge and solemn commitment...every penny will be spent in a very transparent fashion. Every penny will reach the needy," Sharif said.

Pakistan was already desperate for international support and the floods have compounded the challenge.

Prices of basic goods — particularly onions, tomatoes and chickpeas — are soaring as vendors bemoan a lack of supplies from the flooded breadbasket provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's army said its helicopters had flown over 140 sorties in the past 24 hours, plucking people from cut-off areas in the north, and dropping off food and fresh water elsewhere.

Aid flights have arrived in recent days from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, while other countries, including Canada, Australia and Japan, have also pledged assistance.