By Amjad Ali
Fazilpur, Pakistan, Aug 31 (EFE).- Shah Hussain was asleep at his home in Fazilpur, in eastern Pakistan, when his cousin woke him up with a phone call to warn him of the heavy flood that was coming. It was one of the many that have swept through large swathes of the country in recent months that have killed more than 1,100 people.
It was August 20 and Hussain, bewildered, started waking up his entire family for them to pack their things and leave immediately. With the water only a few meters away, he hurried to put away the most valuable items.
Just two hours later, Hussain, his wife and four children were ready to leave their home along with several neighbors, but the water was already over a meter high inside the house and flowing at such a speed that it ended up sweeping their 3-year-old daughter away.
“We haven’t found Rabia Bibi since,” says the 40-year-old.
With no time to lose, everyone in Fazilpur, in the eastern province of Punjab that has been hardest hit by the floods, had to brave the strong current and walk two kilometers to reach safety.
It has been 11 days, and Hussain and his family have not yet returned home. They spend the day and night on a dusty road looking for food for their children, which they don’t always manage to find.
“It ate my daughter,” the grieving father says as he watches the water rushing down the road.
A SUBMERGED CITY
Close to the Indus River which runs through the country from north to south, the floods submerged the western part of the city of 200,000 people, while its eastern part remained safe.
According to the flood control room at the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Rajanpur, the district capital, nearly 80% of the Fazilpur area was inundated.
“There are a total of 22 deaths across the district and 33,658 houses have been totally or partially damaged,” Muhammed Fayyaz, an official in charge of tracking the flood development, told Efe.
All the crops in the town were also submerged, making it even more difficult for the disaster-stricken locality to recover.
The few medical camps that have been set up either have hardly any measurements or very limited facilities to treat anyone who comes for help.
“There is no outbreak yet, but we are receiving between 200 and 300 patients daily with fever, diarrhea and malaria,” Mulazim Khan, a doctor in one of these medical camps, told Efe.
For the younger locals, this was the first flash flood in their lives, while the older ones do remember another one that occurred more than 40 years ago.
“I haven’t seen floods in my area since 1978,” Fida Bakhsh, a 70-year-old resident of Fazilpur, tells Efe as he rests in his shelter on the outskirts of the city.
Bakhsh recounts that he left his village, about 5 km from Fazilpur, and arrived on the eastern side of the city the same night Hussain lost his daughter.
“We reached Fazilpur after six hours, thinking it was safer, but we heard that the Indus River was also overflowing,” the old man says.
“There was nowhere to go then – on the one hand there was the flash flood and on the other the expected flooding of the river,” he adds.