Mammoth monsoon misery in Pakistan

Pakistan Flood images. Photo: Pakistan Mission Unit

Pakistan Flood images. Photo: Pakistan Mission Unit

From the heights of the Himalayan Mountains and the Khyber Pass to the city of Karachi on the shores of the Arabian Sea, floods triggered by hefty rainfall have continued to wreak havoc throughout the country. This has resulted in leaving death, destruction and misery in its wake. THE CLIMATE HAS CHANGED. A month-long severe heat wave in April/May and a hot May to June paved the way for Monsoon record rains. 

To date, the Sindh Monsoon rainfall is around 700 mm, over six times the normal Monsoon rains of 109mm. The neighbouring Province of Baluchistan, which has also been badly affected, is up about five times its normal Monsoon rains. The National Disaster Management Authority reported the death toll to be over 1,100 people, approximately 287,000 houses destroyed, and another 662,000 homes damaged. It is estimated that the floods directly affected 15 per cent of the population, about 33 million people. Thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed. The cotton crop has suffered very severely. Poor peasant farmers have been given a bad blow with this loss of their crop share. Many of the village houses are made of sticks, thatch and mud, so they are particularly vulnerable. So many roofs collapse in cities and villages, resulting in many instant deaths. The invading flood waters have wiped out many villages. It is estimated that 735,000 livestock, consisting of buffaloes, cows, sheep and goats, have drowned or perished from the floods. A T.V. network showed a 'clip' of a herd of about 25 buffaloes being carried down the fast flowing flooded mighty Indus River. To our horror, we saw journeying with them six committed companion cow men clinging to them. We are wondering what happened to the men and buffaloes!!!! Goats numbering 70 were reported to have died instantly from a lightning strike.

A tragedy was reported to us by a comrade, Dani Baksh, who lives in a neighbouring town, that 17 men were out fishing one morning recently in the Arabian Sea waters, and a bolt of lightning struck their boat resulting in the death of all on board. Their families and friends are deeply saddened and distressed at the loss of their loved ones and food suppliers. Too many children and adults have either been killed by lightning or from electrocution caused by faulty electric installations. One boy was electrocuted while walking through rainwater due to electricity from a street light pole.

A couple of hours from Karachi City are many small underground coal mines. The coal miners go down the shafts and work in primitive and dangerous situations. Sudden monsoon rains resulted in water pouring into the mines where the men were working, and several drowned.

One day while travelling on my trusty Honda 70 motorbike, I stopped for rest off the road. With so much rain, even this normal barren area had sprung into life with lush green grass. I met a simple shepherd and his sons who were pasturing their sheep. We had a conversation while sharing some bananas. The father exclaimed. "We have come from the Keti Bunder area because the land there is flooded." (He put his hand to his thigh to indicate the depth of the water there.) "Toba, toba", (repent, repent), he said while putting his hands to his ears. "Allah forgive us; we are sinners." "When will the rains finish?" I ask him. "The One up there knows." He replied while raising his hands in the direction of the sky. I felt very moved by his wisdom, faith and genuineness. He may not have heard of Climate Change, yet in a profound way, he had captured what it is.

There has been a mass movement of especially rural people, shifting from their villages to higher ground, often along roads which are the only dry areas in a sea of water. They take with them what they are able - belongings, animals and loved ones. Government and NGOs, Caritas, and others have provided necessities such as food rations, mosquito nets, drinking water, tents and health care. Chaotic scenes result in the pushing and shoving of hungry crowds when aid arrives. Demonstrations have been taken out over the authorities' failure to deliver the necessary provisions. Many generous souls do come to their assistance, and the people appreciate whatever is given. Pakistan has appealed to the world community for assistance, and there has been some response to their cry for help. Many local places have been set up appealing for aid, with "full volume", load speakers crying out for urgent help to be handed in, such as food etc.

Columban Fr Daniel O'Connor has worked in Pakistan for over 30 years.

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