175,000 forced to flee as Pak­istan flood wa­ters smash em­bank­ment

The Scotsman - - International - SHaKIL adIL MIcHaEL gE­Orgy

Hun­DREDS of thou­sands of Pak­ista­nis fled flood wa­ters yes­ter­day af­ter the surg­ing River In­dus smashed through em­bank­ments in two places, but many re­fused to leave the dan­ger zone while oth­ers took shel­ter in an an­cient grave­yard for Mus­lim saints.

About 175,000 peo­ple are be­lieved to have fled their homes overnight in the south­ern city of Thatta af­ter the em­bank­ment pro­tect­ing the city was breached, said Man­zoor Sheikh, a se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial. Au­thor­i­ties were try­ing to re­pair the em­bank­ment, about 75 miles south­east of the ma­jor coastal city of Karachi.

“The sit­u­a­tion is get­ting worse,” said lo­cal dis­as­ter of­fi­cial Hadi Baksh Kal­horo. “The wa­ter is flow­ing into a nearby canal en­dan­ger­ing Thatta city.”

A sec­ond breach oc­curred in the Soor­jani levee in the same re­gion, said Gu­lab Shah, who is help­ing re­lief ef­forts. “It is be­yond con­trol now,” he said. “Thou­sands of peo­ple are sit­ting with their cat­tle and be­long­ings and their lives are in dan­ger. They are not will­ing to leave.”

Sa­jad Ibrahim

“I have noth­ing. The govern­ment has done noth­ing”

Dozens of peo­ple took shel­ter in the Makli Hill burial ground, one of the largest such sites in the world. The grave­yard, which is not be­lieved to be in dan­ger, houses the or­nate tombs of hun­dreds of Mus­lim saints dat­ing from the 14th cen­tury.

Pro­test­ers blocked a nearby high­way with burn­ing tires. They said they heeded evac­u­a­tion or­ders, but now had no food, wa­ter or shel­ter.

The floods be­gan in the moun­tain­ous north­west about a month ago with the on­set of monsoon rains and have moved slowly down the coun­try to­ward the coast in the south, in­un­dat­ing vast swaths of prime agri­cul­tural land and dam­ag­ing or de­stroy­ing more than one mil­lion homes.

In Swat, the first re­gion hit by the floods, farmer Shah-e-Roon doesn’t have the en­ergy, money or sup­port from Pak­istan’s govern­ment to help Madyan re­cover from the wa­ters that de­stroyed the small town nearly a

A month ago. He has been walk­ing for two days with a 20kg sack of wheat on his back. Food short­ages caused by the dis­as­ter have sent prices soar­ing and the only mar­ket he can reach is many miles away.

“How can think about re­build­ing? I have no way of mak­ing money and I am just too tired,” said the 50-year-old farmer.

Madyan, in the north­west Swat val­ley, looks more like an earth­quake zone than a flood­stricken area.

Four-storey ho­tels that fu­elled the lo­cal econ­omy van­ished. Build­ings have been flat­tened, with cars sand­wiched be­tween slabs of con­crete. Roads were dragged down and all that’s left be­hind are 100ft dirt cliffs crum­bling into a river.

Pak­istan’s govern­ment was heav­ily crit­i­cised af­ter its slug­gish re­sponse to the floods but could re­deem it­self by be­ing more vis­i­ble in the re­build­ing ef­fort. There is no sign of that in Madyan.

Sa­jad Ibrahim’s fa­ther worked in Saudi Ara­bia’s oil in­dus­try for 36 years to save enough to build five homes for his fam­ily. Flood wa­ters pul­verised them along with his busi­ness.

“I have noth­ing. The govern­ment has done noth­ing. How can we go on like this with­out any­one’s help?” he said.

Two sol­diers have been bull­doz­ing rocks and ce­ment chunks in Madyan. They have only cleared an area about 30ft by 100ft in seven days.

An­other sol­dier en­cour­ages ev­ery­one who walks along the muddy area to carry a stone and place it in a pile near work­ers who are re­build­ing the foun­da­tions of a col­lapsed bridge.

Spir­its had been ris­ing in Madyan over the last year. Ho­tels over­look­ing the Swat river and beau­ti­ful lush moun­tains had started to at­tract tourists again af­ter the army had pushed out Taleban in­sur­gents.

The govern­ment promised to in­vest heav­ily in in­fra­struc­ture, schools and hos­pi­tals and build up se­cu­rity and po­lice forces.

Some, like Mo­ham­mad Azam, were ec­static. He fled af­ter the Taleban warned him to close his “im­moral” DVD shop or face death and then rushed back when it was safe and restarted his busi­ness.

Lit­tle did he know that floods would pound his new third­floor shop into the river.


Pic­ture: Reuters

young flood vic­tim drinks her morn­ing tea while tak­ing refuge with her fam­ily

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