KARACHI, Sept 17: “For 30 years, our village somehow escaped disaster or calamity. It’s the first time that the poor people have been forced to move out of the village as they’ve lost all their assets: homes, animals and livelihoods,” recalled Irshad, a young man accompanying a group of 30 to 35 flood-stricken people from Badin district, while speaking to Dawn on Saturday.
The accommodation of the people was arranged in an under-construction building in Model Colony after some of them had contacted their friends and acquaintances in Karachi pleading for help.
Irshad said: “There were crops of rice, cotton, wheat and chillies and we were planning for a harvest when the devastating flood struck our village, Abdullah Khan Buledi, in Tehsil Tando Bago. It was submerged by floodwater and the villagers had to flee their homes.”
The families travelled up to 20 kilometres on foot and reached Tando Bago while looking for a refuge. “While passing through Pangario, we saw floating bodies of humans and animals. There was no government support in sight,” he said.
He said they lived along the dry patches of land without proper shelter and food for two to three days before travelling to Karachi. The travel cost them Rs5,000 because they had good terms with the driver, he said, others were charging between Rs20,000 and Rs30,000 for the same distance.
Currently the families, accompanied by two men, are being looked after by area residents and a non-government organisation, Al-Khidmat. Other male members of the families have stayed back at Tando Bago waiting for the floodwater to recede or moved towards Tharparkar along with animals.
“This is a common practice that people take livestock to Thar whenever there are unfavourable conditions in their villages.
But currently the flood has cut off the link between Badin and Thar,” said Sain Daad, the other male member of the group.
Voicing the families’ concerns, Daad said that landowners extended no support in their hour of need rather they wanted the families to stay back so that they could drain out the receding water from their lands.
“But how could we live there with starving children and no government support coming in?” he wondered.
He complained that government officials were distributing relief goods among their favourites and the poor were without any aid in flood-hit areas.
The women, three of them widows, expressed gratitude for the hospitality extended to them in the city.
Sharing her ordeal with Dawn, Iman, a widow and mother of four children, said that she lost her four-year-old son while the family struggled for safety. “Though I could never forget the loss of my son, I am thankful to God that my other three kids are at a safer place now where our basic needs are being looked after,” she added.
Saifullah, who hails from the same village and has been settled in Karachi for a long time, said that his NGO was trying to provide the best possible support to the flood-hit families.
“When they called for help, we had no idea as to how could we manage so many families. But now they are here and we are thankful to all those who are helping us,” he said.
He added that the loss of fish farms was extensive in district Badin.
It needs to be mentioned here that Badin is among the worst flood-affected districts in Sindh. Other districts severely hit by the calamity include Tharparkar, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah and Sanghar. About 300,000 people have been rendered homeless during monsoon rains across the province. More than 200 people have been killed while 4.5 million acres of land has been destroyed.