THE recent Murree tragedy reminded me of a personal experience in August 1992 during monsoon rains in Karachi. After picking my two children from school, we were then trapped on the flooded Sharea Faisal that would have been closed had a rapid response team been in place.

The car was then literally ‘sailing’ like a matchbox on water, and a group of young boys from the nearby footpath shouted at me: “Aunty, get out of the car, and leave everything.” They made me decide quickly and assisted us in getting out of the car.

Community and self-endurance were the only support mechanisms available to one and all. Wading through waist-high water, we gestured for help to the passing rescue vehicles, but they only waved back. In the meantime, one of my children fell, and upon my screaming for help, a man who looked like some villager, found my child and put him on his shoulder till we reached a high ledge under a small building.

We could not remain in the shelter for long due to the rising water level. So we climbed the stairs and requested the guard of that office to let us stand in the balcony facing the road to look out for help.

We survived that disaster 30 years ago with the help of fellow citizens and family members. Sadly, in 2022, those who got stuck in Murree had nothing more to depend on.

We are yet to develop capacity at various levels to predict and address a disaster through rapid response. There is a lack of system to connect those in trouble with the existing resources, like, say, toll plazas and working groups in times of stress. Additionally, there is also a lack of awareness on the part of the masses regarding what to do when.

Above all, neither the administration nor the people paid attention to warnings by the meteorological department. We still have to learn a lot from such tragic experiences to save ourselves from further loss of lives.

Amna Siddiqui
Karachi

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2022

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