Pakistan flooding: Village at the end of the road

By Mike Wooldridge
BBC News, World affairs correspondent, in Pir Sabaq, Pakistan

  • Published
Andrew Mitchell with a girl
Image caption,
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell met people affected by the floods

Sayed Nawab sits on a sandbag in front of his house in the street that runs through the middle of the village of Pir Sabaq.

The sandbag is part of what he calls a "small dam" that he constructed hastily on the morning the floodwaters surged into the village. But it protected nothing as the water level rose - and rose.

"There was total fear here," he said. "Everyone was crying and running at full speed to the hill."

The water was soon above the 12ft (3.7m) outside walls of his house where he has lived all his 51 years and covering the roof. He joined the exodus.

Pir Sabaq is now a quiet, devastated shadow of the lively village it has always been.

The walls of most of the houses have collapsed and are now rubble.

Many of the compounds within the houses where so much household activity would normally take place in the hotter weather especially are now full of filthy, green stagnant water.

There is a pervasive smell of rotting.

For about half an hour it was different when UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell visited.

Ershad Ahmed showed him the damage that had made his home uninhabitable, for now anyway, and told him there would be no fewer than 14 people sleeping in the tent in their compound.

Other villagers pressed to tell their stories.

As he walked through the streets of the village, Mr Mitchell asked how much of a gap there was between the aid coming in to the village and how much was needed. A gap of about 50 to 60%, he was told.

People were struggling with all aspects of their lives.

Mr Mitchell moved on to the Big Mountain relief camp.

Image caption,
Some of the tents housing people hit by the floods are part of the British aid efforts

It is within sight of the village - the hill that everyone raced to on the first day of the flooding.

There are roughly 1,000 people living under canvas. A woman in one of the tents said one of the toughest things was to see her children "crying for their home", destroyed in the floods.

Some of the tents are part of the British assistance in this area - aid that was making a difference, the international development secretary maintained, though he said more help was clearly needed.

He also saw it as proof that British aid was not being compromised by the concerns that have been widely expressed about how much the Pakistan government can be trusted to use aid effectively.

There could be absolute confidence, Mr Mitchell said, that money donated by the British people was getting "to the sharp end" - to places like Pir Sabaq.

But wasn't it also depressing to see that there had not been more progress with the aid operation in three weeks, he was asked.

He is not alone in taking the view that there is a difference between an unfolding disaster of this kind and a more immediately cataclysmic event like a major earthquake.

Walking through Pir Sabaq, with the evidence of the incredibly destructive force of the floodwaters all around, it seemed that an earthquake would hardly have done more damage.

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