As CRS Pakistan teams hike through dangerous terrain to reach survivors of massive flooding, staffers are also coping with their own losses.
Sultan Ahmad, who has worked as a security guard for CRS in northern Pakistan since last December, lives 100 feet from the Indus River. His 18 family members, including his siblings, their children, and his elderly parents, live together in their six-room house. The house is new, and a labor of love—Sultan and his brother helped build it with their own hands last year.
When water levels started rising last week, Sultan and his family rushed to grab the children, including two babies, and flee to higher ground. In fifteen minutes the floods had taken over. Sultan and his family were alive–but their house and everything in it was lost.
“The house is all they had,” says Latif Ullah, a coworker in the CRS Besham office. Though the house stood 20 feet above the river, nothing remained. “It was completely swept away by the rushing floodwaters, and the land that the house stood on fell into the river. There is nothing to see where his house once stood and it is impossible for him to rebuild without land.”
Sultan and his family managed to rent two rooms, where all 19 of them now live. Like thousands of other Pakistanis affected by the flood, their most urgent needs include clean water, cookware, and sleeping mats.
CRS is racing to get help to flood survivors, including water purification tablets to prevent outbreaks of disease. Because roads are cut off by landslides and bridges are destroyed, CRS is investigating the use of rope-pulley systems to get aid over rivers, or donkeys to get urgent supplies to remote places.
In Swat, another region devastated by the flood, CRS assessment teams report that hundreds of homes have been damaged or swept away. During the worst of the flooding, the Swat River widened to four times its normal size, destroying many bridges and submerging houses, shops, and fields.
Some survivors are staying with their relatives, like Sultan; others are living with neighbors or in school camps. With no electricity and water pipes broken or gone, and with a major hospital washed away by the floods, “people are in a desperate state,” says Carolyn Fanelli, Head of Programming for CRS Pakistan.
Their source of income is gone too. In Swat, many people make their living off the land. Crops are gone, and the region’s apple and peach orchards are flooded with water. “In some areas there is no land at all now,” says Fahad Khan, head of CRS’ Swat office. “There is nothing left to build on.”
—Compiled from field reports written by CRS Pakistan staff
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