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A battle against time

Published Aug 16, 2010 12:06pm


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A series of eyewitness accounts from volunteers at relief camps across the country:

As mentioned in my previous post, Offroaders Pakistan and the Motor Rally club had been collecting funds for flood relief for the past two weeks in Karachi. We received a tremendous response and with around Rs. 2.5 million  donated to us, we loaded five trucks of food supplies as well as a truck full of tents and set out at 10:30 am on August 14.

Our initial plan was to go to Moro in Sindh, but due to local weather conditions not permitting and the dire need of food and supplies in Sukkur, we decided late Friday to take everything we had acquired and head to out to where we were needed the most.

This relief trip was unique since we constantly updated in real time via Twitter (@faisalkapadia & @drawab) and the entire trip was also covered by GPS updates.

Day 1

It took us approximately six-and-half hours to reach Sukkur and contrary to what we had been hearing on through different media outlets, the roads throughout the way were very well-policed and secure. We entered Sukkur around 5 p.m. and as we neared, thousands of people lined the roads, sleeping on both sides in the scorching heat, without any shelter or even charpais; women, children as well as the elderly and handicapped people lay along the street in the mud. Most of these people had migrated from Thul, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Kashmore due to the incoming waters. It was really hard to digest the tragedy in front of our eyes as we unloaded the aid we had brought and proceeded to our camp which was set up with the help of local volunteers provided generously by Shehryar Meher. The Motor Rally team took the remaining trucks onwards to their camp near Shikarpur.

Once that was done and our iftari eaten in haste, we started setting up tents in our camp site and proceeded to do so till 2:30 a.m. We adopted the modus operandi of noting down ID card information as we gave out supplies to make sure that not more than one tent was given to one family so maximum people could get shelter. What was remarkable for us was that people whom we were providing relief to (some of them who hadn’t eaten a proper meal for a week) were very cooperative; they were only too happy to get any sort of help with shelter and it was quite a sight to see them standing in line as we handed out packets of biryani and water after which they settled into their tents for the night. Each tent sheltered up to eight people and thus with 500 people secure about three feet above ground level we finally called it a night.

Day 2

We arrived at the campsite at about 830am and found there were dozens of people not only from our tent enclave but from the surrounding areas as well. The crowd was so large and their need so great that we had to take the help of the local police to organise all of them into lines. At several points this morning our team of seven individuals considered stopping the provision of rations as we were repeatedly stormed by people desperate for any sort of relief. Still at no point during this very tough distribution process were we threatened by any of the refugees, it was just a matter of clear frustration and lack of adequate provisions that drove these people, they were not begging but merely trying to survive each day.

Till about 1130 a.m., we distributed close to 500 care packets that consisted of rice, oil, biscuits, water, salt and pulses. We also learnt the hard way that smaller packets would have been easier for the women and children to carry since ours were too heavy for them. We managed to split up the rations at the camp site but perhaps others organisations who are making similar care packets need to to keep this in mind.

We then left for Shikarpur where along the way we stopped to unload our last truck of rations into a mobile kitchen. Here they began preparing over 3000 rotis and began cooking rice and daal for the people traveling the route to Sukkur. The rest of the supplies were sent along with volunteers who manned the boats into the kacha areas in Shikarpur where there is about 4-5 feet of standing water and the people are cut off by road access. We also had a chance to go into lucky tehsil and survey firsthand the breach in the Indus minor, which is threatening Shikarpur with one million cusecs of water. Currently the army and the locals are considering total evacuation since there is talk that Shikarpur may not be able to make it in case fresh floods hit the area.

*We have been joined by PYR Pakistan, FLP and CIO Pakistan in our efforts. The Offroad team consisted of Nabil Jangda, Rehan Bandukda, Faraz Khan, Ali Khurshid, Imran Hussai, Dr Awab Alvi and Faisal Kapadia. For more information, go to our website

Faisal Kapadia is a Karachi-based entrepreneur and writer. He blogs at Deadpan Thoughts.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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The writer is the Editor Lingua Urdu at Global Voices. He is also the Director Digital Strategy and Social Media at Mind Map Communications. He tweets @faisalkapadia.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (14) Closed

Ambreen Ismail Sep 06, 2010 04:07pm
Good to hear someone from family doing the great job ,i am away but also did whatever i can . Ambreen Ismail
Pravin Aug 16, 2010 07:36am
Wow, Great Job Faisal! All the best. - Pravin
linganath Aug 17, 2010 06:33pm
Great Work!
Aman Dandia Aug 17, 2010 05:26am
Great Job. I commend you, Faisal, and your team for working so hard for the great cause. Keep up the good work - our prayers are with you.
rahim chundrigar Aug 17, 2010 05:08am
zindabad .we need more pakistanis like you .man of deed and not photo session. ALLAH may bless you. rest a sure we all youth outside Pakistan r doing our best . collecting funds etc. ALLAH dekh rahe he. if we don't think of suffering Pakistanis who else will come to help us.. rahim chundrigar kansas.u.s.a.
CharityBeginsAtHome Aug 18, 2010 07:50pm
Sabah Aug 17, 2010 12:42am
Hats off to you guys for helping the nation ! May God be with you.
Saba Aug 18, 2010 01:56pm
Faisal, I'm currently not residing in Pakistan and it breaks my heart to see what's happening in my home country. I can't come over to help and have only donated money so far. Reading about your efforts, makes me feel a whole lot better. May Allah bless you in your endeavor. Amin.
Dee Aug 16, 2010 06:16pm
Great work, guys! May Allah bless you all.
rabia garib Aug 16, 2010 03:44pm
Thanks for the post Faisal... Your photographs on Facebook are heartbreaking.. Hunger isn't a familiar feeling to many of us and I sincerely hope your second round of fund raising will enable you to continue the effort and further the cause.. It's always the long haul that's the bigger challenge. Godspeed to your entire group
Syed Ali Raza Aug 16, 2010 03:32pm
Great going soldiers!
Sachin Johri Aug 16, 2010 03:36pm
Great Job , we are collecting the stuff for red cross in Tampa Florida to send to pakistan
aikan Aug 16, 2010 09:15am
Deeply appreciate relief efforts put up by your team for people devasted by floods.
SNS Aug 16, 2010 08:42am
Your efforts are commendable and throughly respected.