Pakistan flood story #1: Three rented vehicles

It was still dark and the sky was calm. Trees rustled quietly and all went as usual. It wasn't long before people were to awake for a normal day.

But, at the first light of dawn, people began running desperately down the streets of Thatta. Word was spreading like wildfire that the Soorjani Band had broken. Water had flooded villages nearby, and was heading towards Sijawal, Daro, Mir pur Bathoro and the main city of Thatta district. In mere minutes, the lives of almost a million people were at stake.

Chaos spread as, all at once, hundreds of families had to flee, taking only what they could grab as they rose from sleep. Everyone was laden with whatever they could carry, some only clutching their children as they ran.

Participatory Development Initiative [PDI] is a not-for-profit working on behalf of local communities in Pakistan, especially women. As they too awoke to the panic, the team in Thatta knew the most urgent need was to help this evacuation. But they only had one truck on hand. Despite the chaos, a few members of the team managed to get  outside of Thatta to where they thought they could rent vehicles of some kind. As quickly as possible they returned with the only three things available: two buses and a wagon.

By evening of that first terrible day, the roads leading out of Thatta were still jam packed with people moving on foot and trucks. Dust-covered and panting, the PDI team moved with them, rushing in and out of the district.
It was night when they realized there were still 15 families stranded, struggling to get out of a village -- a group of 35 men, 46 women and 55 children. The group was in tears when the PDI team arrived, waiting for help that had not come. The children were terrified that the water would soon sweep them away. It took PDI two round-trips and six hours to bring the group to safety, but finally all were evacuated.

Since then, those three vehicles have made hundreds of trips to the interior of Thatta, picking up families, taking them to a safe place and coming back for more. The team has saved about 7,000 families inside Sijawal, Thatta City and Mir Pur Bathoro.

The region, once a hub of fishing communities, is now barren. Thatta awaits complete flooding of Sijawal, Daro, Mirpur Bathoro, ares which held a population of half a million people.

There are half a million people, living under the open sky. They can breath safely, but have lost everything.


Adapted from a story by Khalida Brohi, Participatory Development Initiatives

See more news from PDI here >>

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(posted by Jane Wulf)