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‘There’s nothing left’: In flood-ravaged southern Pakistan, residents are desperate for help

QUETTA: Hussain Bakhsh, displaced from his village in the southwest district of Jaffarabad in Pakistan after his house was washed away by floods, has been living with 20 relatives in makeshift accommodation on a highway for more than a week.

Bakhsh is one of more than 30 million people in Pakistan left homeless by this year’s monsoon rains, killing more than 930 people. The southwestern province of Balochistan and Sindh in the south of the country have been hardest hit by the rains and floods.

The country’s climate change minister on Thursday called the situation a “climate-induced humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions”.

“I have been living with my children for eight days in a small camp, which has a plastic roof,” Bakhsh, 70, told Arab News. “I don’t have a tent or food for my family.

“There’s been so much flooding and we’ve been lying on the roads for eight days,” he said.

“The government did nothing at all and we got no relief. We are poor and we are starving.

Indeed, Balochistan, the country’s poorest province, has suffered the most from the recent rains, with much of its territory submerged in water and major roads and highways cut off from the rest of the country. The rains have claimed at least 230 lives in the province since mid-June.

Funding and reconstruction efforts will be a challenge for cash-strapped Pakistan, which must cut spending to ensure the International Monetary Fund approves the release of much-needed bailout funds.

The National Disaster Management Authority said in a report that in the past 24 hours, 150 km of roads were damaged across the country and more than 82,000 homes damaged.

Since mid-June, when the monsoon began, more than 3,000 km of road, 130 bridges and 495,000 houses have been damaged, according to the latest situation report from the NDMA.

Major districts in Balochistan including Jaffarabad, Naseerabad and Sibi were flooded and residents sat in the open near highways with their belongings and livestock.

Muhammad Suleman, 37, who lost his home, crops and livestock in the Murad Colony neighborhood of Dera Allah Yar, said the floods had completely destroyed his village.

“The government left us to die under the sky,” he told Arab News. “We are surrounded by water because it has been raining for three days. Our children are getting sick and there is a risk of a major outbreak in the entire Naseerabad division.

“One hundred percent of our villages are destroyed. The cattle died. The wheat broth is finished. The rice fields are destroyed. The houses are damaged. Nothing is left.”

Another resident, Amanullah, said more than five feet of water entered his home last week and his family had no choice but to leave and find a safer place.

“We waited 24 hours, but not a single government representative came to see our fate. Now we are heading to the bypass to seek shelter,” the 18-year-old said, pointing to the main thoroughfare.

Jaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Abdul Razzaq Khajak said around half a million people in the district had been affected by the floods but the administration was doing its best to provide relief.

“Jaffarabad is not the only district affected by the floods, but the whole province is drowned,” he told Arab News. “The Provincial Disaster Management Authority has provided us with 800 tents and we have distributed them to our people, but the scale of the floods is huge and it will take time for us to deliver relief to every corner of the district.”

Baluchistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo told reporters the government would provide compensation.

“We are going to build houses for all these people. Whoever has lost his cattle, we will give him animals. Anyone who has lost their farmland, we will help bring it back to life,” he said. “Whatever damage occurred, we will provide the compensation.”

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