our colleague Diana Bassani reports form a visit to Nowshera, one of the districts hit by the flooding.
The trip to Islamabad is short enough: the Nowshera district is about 2 hours away. The landscape around us is fascinating. I see jagged mountains and wide tobacco fields, one of the main resources for the area.
One hour away from Islamabad damages caused by the overflowing of the river Indus are evident. Many fields are flooded and the few houses are surrounded by water.
The town of Risal Pul, where I get to as soon as I leave the main road, is devastated by monsoonal rains and floods.
Despite everything, the road is in good conditions, even if some bits are completely destroyed and the concrete is broken in few parts.
Today the water is no longer on the road and it stagnates on the sides and around the houses. The road has become a point for people to gather themselves and to give help. On the side of the road there is a number of tents and temporary camps where women, men, children and old people can find shelter. Some people don’t even have a shelter, they are just there with some blankets or a chair where they can rest themselves.
Some cars stop for distributing water and food and they are immediately assaulted by the crowd. A one stage a truck stops in front of us and they start launching packs of biscuits to the people.
Near a school they have set up a tent for the distribution of humanitarian aid and there is a small crowd around it. They carry anything on their shoulders : objects or those small animals that by luck have survived the flooding.
Images of emergency weirdly toned down by the colors of the city: roofs, walls of the houses and sides of trucks are covered with traditional rainbow carpets, sheets and fabrics.
Where there once was the main fruit and vegetables market of the city now there is only an empty space surrounded by destroyed houses submerged in water.
The local community hasn’t given up…they have opened a new market on the main road, sheltered from the water, where they have set up desks to sell and buy fruit and vegetables: a sign that they are keen to start over. On this road you might have the impression that things are starting again.
However this feeling is swept away as soon as we arrive to the village of Amankot.
Here the damages are even more evident: the majority of the houses are destroyed or damaged. There are piles of bricks and men, women and children walking on the street. The village doesn’t exist anymore: everything has been swept away and the remaining is just a pile of muck. As soon as we get there we are surrounded by people. I can see desperation on their faces. I try to put myself in their shoes, to think how I would feel if my house was swept away and I suddenly found myself without water, clothes, food, forced to live in the mud. I try it but such a huge tragedy is hard to understand even when it is in front of your eyes. You have no time to give up, you have to tart working: I try to collect as much info as I can in order to start distribution as soon as possible.
I’m really impressed by the composure of their pain: this small crowd asking for help just looking at us.
On the streets I see sacks full of beans, flour, rice, dates damaged by the water. Dead animals come out from the flooded fields: the smell is unbearable. The risk of epidemic is high.
We realize that, besides the distribution of water, food and shelters, a sanitary intervention will be needed. This is what we will do thank to thousands of donors that are supporting our work.