Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pakistan Floods Worsen, But Locals Resist Evacuation

As the flood waters in Pakistan continue to inundate large swaths of the country, some locals in areas at risk of the next wave of floods are reluctant to move to safer ground.

“We will not leave our possessions or our cattle to go to some camp. We need to stay here and protect our water buffalo, otherwise how will we live once the waters recede?” said Jamal Ahmed from Punjab Province, according to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a news service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for OCHA, told The Epoch Times that it is “extremely common for people in general to be unwilling to move, even when faced with possible disaster.”

The floods covering parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces are spreading and are expected to become severe in the neighboring Sindh Province in a short while, Bunker said. Parts of Gilgit-Baltistan and federally administered tribal areas have also been moderately affected, she added.

OCHA reported Tuesday that the banks of the Indus River have breached in at least seven districts of Punjab, where 46 deaths have been confirmed so far. Over 1,100 people are estimated to have died in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Over 25,000 houses in Punjab have been destroyed, according to Reuters. In Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan, and Peshawar, 80,000 homes have been destroyed, reported the World Food Program.

Food, clean drinking water, and medical services are needed in areas affected by the floods. There are also concerns about the spread of water-borne diseases.

According to ReliefWeb, these are the “worst floods to hit Pakistan since 1929,” and at least one million people are in need of emergency assistance.

Punjab resident Zahida Khatoon, however, is still determined not to leave her home. In keeping with her local culture, she has never spent a night outside her home and feels uncomfortable staying with strangers.

“Even death may be better than camp life for me,” she told IRIN. “On TV I have seen dozens of men and women lying in one space.”

Others are refusing to stay in the camps because they think conditions there are bad and people are not respected, social worker Khadim Muhamad told IRIN.

According to IRIN, local authorities may use force if residents continue to refuse to move.

“We will begin forced evacuations if necessary,” Adnan Khan, a spokesperson for the provincial disaster management authority, told IRIN.

The Express Tribune reported that the Sukkur district administration said it may cut off gas and power supply to force residents to move. OCHA could not confirm this, Bunker said. Approximately 350,000 people have evacuated from low lying areas in Sindh, she said.

Source: The Epoch Times 

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