Friday, 6 August 2010

Flood Story 2

Gul Hassan, 70, is no stranger to adversity. Back in the 1980s, fighting in his native Afghanistan forced him to flee along with his family to neighbouring Pakistan, where he started a new life in the refugee settlement of Hajizai, located on a riverbank in the northwestern part of the country.

But over the past week, the most severe flooding in over 70 years inundated his old home and forced him to flee for a second time. For six days, he and his sons have been living in the open on the pavement of a roadway, while his wife and daughters are sleeping with friends.

"It was midnight, when the water levels suddenly began to rise," says Hassan. His remaining belongings, those the family had managed to carry with them, lay heaped under plastic sheeting on the pavement. "There have been floods in the past too," he continues, but these were the worst in living memory. "This was devastating".

Flood waters are still flowing through the nearby settlement and it is raining again. Relief organizations are struggling to reach victims in areas that have been cut off by the flooding as roads and scores of bridges have been washed away whilst on a nearby bridge, a crowd of children has gathered to watch as the dark brown waters begin to rise again.

Hassan is one of the more than 1.5 million people displaced by the worst floods Pakistan has seen in a generation. Included in that number are some 700,000 people like Hassan, who have already been dispaced by conflicts-in Afghanistan or in Pakistan itself-and who therefore find themselves homeless for a second time. His family is among some 10,000 Afghan families living in four refugee villages destroyed by the flood waters.

(adapted from
this report by Rabia Ali, Peshawar, August 2010)

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