Monsoon floods hobble poorest in southern Sindh

August 13, 2020

HYDERABAD: Ghulam Abbas, a resident of village Rajo Gandho was upset about his partially damaged house after the flood in Nai Gaj hit the entire area at around 2:00am on Saturday, when they were...

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HYDERABAD: Ghulam Abbas, a resident of village Rajo Gandho was upset about his partially damaged house after the flood in Nai Gaj (Rain River) hit the entire area at around 2:00am on Saturday, when they were asleep.

The area is situated in union council Drigh Bala, Dadu district, the mouth of the Nai Gaj, which had hit a large number of villages at a time, causing panic among people.

“It was night time and the news of the flood spread to everyone in the village instantly and all the dwellers were hurriedly looking to save their own lives.

We left the village wading through the flowing water to reach safer places to save our lives,” he said. “We could not take anything for feeding our minor children.”

The village comprised of more than 200 houses and was located on higher ground as per tradition to avoid floods.

“We left the village immediately after the water struck to reach the safety of the road, but that was also disconnected. In our hurry, we left everything behind,” Abbas said.

“After sunrise we saw the flowing water level was around 12-13 feet all around. It was a frightening situation as floodwater was everywhere, and nobody was in a position to do much or decide where to go to escape the deluge,” he added.

Getting rations was the first priority for everyone, and it was a challenge because communication was disrupted. People were also scared of wading through the high floodwaters.

The flood in the natural rain river not only destroyed local businesses, standing crops, everyday lives, but might also cause

long-lasting stress in the affected communities.

Omar Babar, a shopkeeper in another village Bahawal Babur shared a similar traumatic story. They received floodwater at the same time (2:00am) and left the village instantly to save themselves.

“I have lost each and everything in my shop. I am thinking now how much time it will take to rehabilitate myself,” he said. Affected families took their children, elderly parents and livestock to move to higher ground, he added.

Babar said that boats of Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) arrived on the first day to evacuate them, but they were reluctant to leave. “We thought the floodwater will recede soon, and we will find a way to go back home.”

Government too had asked the villagers to move to a safer area, but they refused as they wanted to stay near their villages, hoping to salvage some of their belongings.

Babar demanded for cooked food for the people and fodder for their animals, which would help save lives and valuable assets. “It is four days now, and people are disappointed. We have no food rations, safe drinking water or fodder for animals,” he added.

Abdul Ghaffar Bughio of TRDP sharing their assessment data said around 250 villages, comprising 18,000 houses have been affected in 10 union councils of Dadu district.

Out of which 5,000 houses were destroyed completely, while a large number of houses were partially damaged.

“There is no report about infrastructures like schools in the affected area, because the rehabilitation of roads may take another two-three days, which will then allow us to reach these areas to gather more data.”

Bughio shared the story of a pregnant woman from Babar village. She was displaced and witnessing the flood went in labour.

“The family and people nearby were marooned, but they still put her on a charpoy and waded through water for a couple of hours to reach the hospital, where she safely delivered. Both mother and child are safe now,” he said. There may be more such cases appearing in disconnected villages, which need help, he added.

Ghulam Nabi Bozdar of village Naseer Bozdar was among a crowd of affected people gathered at a camp at the Johi—Wahi Pandhi road to get food ration being distributed there. He said many neighbouring villages nearby received water at 10:00am and 11:00am.

Many males were out of homes for their routine work when the flood hit their villages and women as usual took children and livestock out before they reached.

Elderly people sitting at disconnected roads for getting ration told The News that traditionally they were familiar with Nai Gaj streams. They received flood in 1995 by Nai Gaj and then flood in river Indus in 2010. But this year it was beyond expectation and people are waiting for help after losing their belongings, including food items.

Dr Aziz Rustamani, a veterinary doctor with a background in farming, said usually these arid zone farmers do not cultivate any crop in three months, like May, June and July. But now there was a change.

Farmers have invested in tube wells for farming. The farmers were preparing to cultivate onion, chilli and tomato, but the flood has disrupted their planned activities.

He said at least 100 villages were still disconnected from the rest of the world. “Villagers are crying for food, safe water and fodder.” He feared that livestock might not survive for more days in such a polluted environment. “It may cause problems for farmers, as these assets are must for rehabilitating their life again,” he added.

Rustamani said more than 50 tube wells have been damaged. Now nobody was sure about their future in agriculture after the flood.

Some vehicles carrying tents and rations were seen stuck on the road because of the floodwaters.

Ramzan Mallah, coordinating nine fishing boats at another road connecting famous Chhini town to facilitate the affected people, said they have been staying there since day one when the flood hit the area, on August 8. They were facilitating families in case they need ration, fodder or need to shift any patients in serious condition to hospitals.

He said many people have shifted their families to relatives residing in different areas. But the majority of the people were staying in villages, despite various risks.

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