Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Historic city saved from floods

Pakistani families are evacuated by boat after their home was totally surrounded by flood waters near Thatta (AP)
Pakistans take shelter on the higher ground near the flooded Indus River, outside Thatta (AP)

Thousands of people have streamed back to the historic southern city of Thatta where new levees hastily built from clay and stone held back flood waters that have inundated much of Pakistan.

But thousands who fled the waters that inundated neighbouring towns complained about the shortage of food and water as they camped in a vast Muslim graveyard on a hill near Thatta city.

Hordes of people ran after vehicles distributing food and water near the graveyard, a chaotic effort that left many flood survivors - especially the old and infirm - with nothing. Some drank rainwater pooled on the ground.

"I cannot run after food and survive the maddening rush at this age of mine," said 75-year-old Nasima Mai, who fled with her extended family, mostly women and children.

"They throw food from the truck like animals are given food," she said.

Authorities said they were trying to provide food and shelter to the hundreds of thousands of people camped out on the hill in Makli. But as in other areas of the country, the scale of the disaster has overwhelmed both local capacity and the international partners trying to help.

"We are trying to set up a tent city in different parts of Makli so that the distribution (of aid) could be organised," said Hadi Baksh, a disaster management official in southern Sindh province.

The floods started about a month ago in the North West after extremely heavy monsoon rains and have slowly surged south along the Indus River, devastating towns and farmland. More than 1,600 people have died and 17 million are affected by the floods.

Authorities struggled to save Thatta on Sunday, building new levees with clay and stone across a major road to hold back floodwaters that inundated the nearby town of Sujawal. Many of Sujawal's 250,000 residents had already fled, but the water damaged houses, schools and other buildings.

Most of Thatta's 350,000 residents had also fled in recent days but began to return to the city as the danger passed, said Mr Baksh.

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