A disaster Pakistan could ill-afford

The worst flooding in living memory has created a truly national disaster and it is likely to be years before the count

    On July 29, Pakistan saw a deluge the likes of which the country had not experienced since her independence more than six decades ago. The last time something like this happened was in 1929.

    The heavy downpour further swelled rivers in the north, which had already been fed by increased water flow from the snow melts. In short it was a perfect recipe for disaster.

    All along the river Swat buildings livestock and fruit orchards laden with fresh peaches were swept away.

    In a matter of hours Swat saw devastation that made the bloody conflict between the army and the Swati Taliban in this idyllic valley look like a small affair. Generations of toil sweat and tears were washed away as crops and trees were swept downstream.

    But that was not all - highways and bridges were also obliterated by the raging rivers.


    The accumulative strength of the water also led a massive rise in the river Indus as it wound its meandering way across the country towards the plains of the fertile region of southern Punjab.

    Within days the number of people affected by the unusually heavy monsoon rains was rising dramatically from one million to two then three and now four.

    Almost half the people affected were in the southern Punjab districts of Layyah, Muzafargarh, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan alone.

    The heavy downpours in the Koh-e-Sulieman, or the mountain of Solomon left a trail of destruction in Baluchistan before it had even reached the Indus further south.

    As we arrived in the affected area we were struck by the scale of the disaster in the cotton and mango growing region of the country. Driving to Kot Addu, west of Multan, we could see people on the move.

    The population of the town was told to leave as the advancing waters now threatened to inundate the streets. While we were still there we saw the water creeping into this town.


    The following day, to my dismay, Kot Addu was under several feet of water and a major power generating unit was also under threat.

    The country's major Pak Arab refinery, built with help from the United Arab Emirates, was also under threat of inundation. If that were to happen it could lead to a major fuel crisis in the country.

    Everyone was hoping that the waters would drain away so people could return to rebuild their lost homes and properties.

    One man told me it was like partition all over again. He was referring to 1947 when the country first became an independent state - then as now people were forced to move with just the clothes on their backs, some riding on bull carts as we have seen on the sodden streets in recent days.

    After passing through this region the waters were already entering the province of Sindh, home to the country's major port city of Karachi.

    In the end one can only say that this is indeed a national disaster for Pakistan. The country has lost a lot and no one can calculate how long it will take to rebuild all that has gone.


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