GWADAR More than one and a half months after a cyclone devastated Balochistan's coastal area, thousands of affected families are still struggling to clear rainwater standing in localities and to rebuild their houses.
Contrary to announcements made in Islamabad and Quetta since the June 6 cyclone Phet hit the areas no significant help has reached Gwadar and other coastal regions.
The streets of Mullah Band and other slum areas, south of the newly built port town of Gwadar are still submerged with rainwater and littered with the debris of collapsed houses.
Mullah Band, a century-old settlement with a population of 6,000 to 7,000, was the worst hit area by heavy rains that lashed Gwadar and the coastline for over 20 hours.
“Out of about 400 houses, 300 were completely or partially destroyed in Mullah Band. There was no loss of life but we helplessly watched as our houses were washed away,” said Akbar Hussain, a resident of the area.
He said people were not able even to salvage valuables and other belongings.
The residents of Mullah Band in the south union council of Gwadar told journalists who visited the rain-affected areas that the government moved them to relief camps set up in government buildings but these were also battered by storm and rain.
They alleged that the administration had not made any arrangement for providing food and relief goods to the camps.
“So far we have received only Rs5,000 per family from the provincial government, which is not sufficient even for a few weeks' sustenance,” said Nakhuda Abbas Zakhmi.
The few houses that survived have developed cracks and it is dangerous to live there because they may collapse any moment.
Residents said that they had never experienced such devastations in their lifetime nor had they heard from their elders about such devastations caused by rainwater.
Women still living in damaged houses were more critical of government's inaction. They said that most of the people in the settlement were fishermen and it was beyond their means to build new houses.
“We have no choice but to stay in the dangerous houses which can collapse any time” said 65-year-old Sara Bibi, a mother of 12.
They said there was no outlet for the stagnating water in Mullah Band, Madi Ward and other areas. “About four to five feet water was still standing in the localities and most of the houses have collapsed” said Nakhuda Akram Essa.
There were not enough pumping machines to drain out floodwater and people had to pull down the dyke to drain it to the sea, he said.
“The natural outlet for rainwater was blocked by the construction of fish harbour and deep-sea port,” said Mullah Ismail, another resident.
He said the government had spent billions of rupees on the port and fish harbour but given no attention to laying a sewerage network.
According to the Gwadar Master Plan prepared by the Gwadar Development Authority, residents of Mullah Band and nearby localities of the old town are to be shifted to a place 20 km away.
Their land was required for approach roads to the port, warehouses and other installations.
The government has offered land and promised to the people help for building their houses but they have refused to leave their ancestral land because of its proximity to the Arabian Sea.
They say they can not live away from the sea and the government just wants to deprive them of their ancestral land. Many houses were washed away also in the locality of Faqirabad, eight km north of Gwadar town, because a nullah dug by the GDA blocked natural drain.
About 30 thatched houses of fishermen on the bank of Dor Nadi were washed away. “It has not happened for the first time. I have rebuilt my house more than four times,” Abdul Rasheed said.
He said the administration had not paid him and other affected people Rs5,000 announced by the chief minister.
Surbander, another small coastal town about 50 km from Gwadar did not suffer much damage. “Surbander was safe from the cyclone because of a wall built by the government for developing a jetty for the proposed fish harbour on the coast,” said Abdul Hakim, a resident of the area.
A senior official of the Gwadar administration, Tahir Fasial Hussain, said the government had provided all possible help and relief to the rain affected people.
“We have distributed over Rs20 million among the 4,181 affected families so far,” he said, adding that the amount was given for construction of boundary walls and for goods of daily use.
According to a survey carried out by the government, he said, 7,671 houses were damaged in Gwadar taluka -- 3,024 of them suffered 50 per cent damage and 4,027 were destroyed.
“The administration assessed the damage and submitted its report to the provincial government,” said assistant commissioner of Gwadar.
He said the government would provide Rs350,000 for reconstruction of each houses, Rs250,000 for repairs of 50 per cent damaged houses and Rs100,000 for partially damaged houses. A total of 214 fishing boats were damaged and the owners suffered a loss of over Rs60 million, he added.
He said that the administration had recommended to the provincial government to shift residents of Mullah Band and other localities to the new township as proposed in the Gwadar Master Plan.
The Disaster Management Authority has so far been silent on the issue of reconstruction of collapsed houses in Gwadar and other flood-affected areas along the Makran Coast.
Some NGOs, including Participatory Development Institute, have also conducted a survey in Gwadar and suggested that the government should immediately start rehabilitation work in the affected areas because the families living in dangerous houses might face another disaster if they were not provided adequate shelter.
“More than a month has passed since the cyclone hit the area but the government has not taken any action to compensate the affected people,” said Fahim Raza, an office-bearer of the PDI.