‘It rained like never before’: Pakistani flood survivor

Asif Shehzad from Punjab province is among the 33 million people affected by Pakistan’s worst flooding in a decade.

Pakistan village after floods
Shehzad's village was inundated with water following incessant rains [Courtesy of Asif Shehzad]

Islamabad, Pakistan – When 30-year-old Asif Shehzad was returning home from his grocery shop in Pakistan’s Punjab province on August 12, he never imagined he would be spending his last night under his own roof.

A resident of Chittar Watta, a small village in the tribal belt in the Koh-e-Sulaiman mountains, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the provincial capital, Lahore, Shehzad said it was an ordinary night for him and his family.

“It had been raining for a few days but there was nothing that prepared us for what was to come. My children were having dinner and I was sitting with them when suddenly rain picked up the pace,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.

Shehzad said that his family would often spend time on their verandah but due to rain, they went inside their rooms. But the rain was relentless that night and did not stop.

A man rests on a cot made with tope amid flood waters infront of his damaged house following rains and floods during the monsoon season in Jafarabad, Pakistan August 28, 2022
A man rests on a cot made with rope amid floodwaters in front of his damaged house in Jafarabad [Amer Hussain/Reuters]

“It was non-stop, and it rained like I have never seen before in my life,” he said. Soon, his mud house started showing signs of damage, and part of his roof collapsed in different places.

“Some of my livestock died when the roof caved in. We were afraid that the whole house would fall down, and my entire family decided to seek refuge under trees.”

The 30-year-old recalled that the intensity of the rains, which the country’s climate minister has dubbed “monster monsoons”, kept building and he could see water coming down from the mountains, gushing towards his village. Soon, the water reached his house and swept away at least seven of his cattle and subsequently submerged the entire village. His house is now a heap of rocks and debris.

For the last 18 days, Shehzad and his family have been living in the open on higher ground near the village, while having only one meal a day.

They are among the 33 million people who have been adversely affected by the worst flooding in a decade. More than 1,000 people have died and a third of the country is under water due to the record monsoon rains in the past two and a half months.

All four provinces have been affected by the deluge but southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh are particularly hard hit with large swaths of area marooned by the floodwaters.

Finance minister Miftah Ismail has estimated the damage at $10bn.

The flood has caused a collapse of communication infrastructure, as a vast network of roads and bridges has been damaged, cutting off access and making it difficult to reach stranded people.

Shehzad and his family are among those yet to receive state help.

“Since the day we lost our house, we have been sitting under open sky. It has continued to rain in our area non-stop till August 17, and after that it never stopped, but its intensity reduced,” he said.

While his family, including his brothers, have only had to endure the loss of their homes and livestock, some of his other relatives and neighbours were not so lucky.

Asif Shehzad's house destroyed by floods in Pakistan.
Shehzad’s house in Punjab province was destroyed by the flooding [Courtesy of Asif Shehzad]

“Nine members of the family of my relative died when the roof collapsed due to rain,” he said. “Another man drowned while trying to save his child. His body was found 150 kilometres away from here,” he added. More than 300 children are among the dead.

Shehzad says that aid reached him only four days ago, when some volunteers provided some rations and tents.

“We are a family of 26 in total, with 13 children and seven women. The aid workers gave us only a few bags of ration and three tents,” he said, adding that many of the villagers still did not have any tents and they had no choice but to sleep in the open at the mercy of nature.

The government has enlisted the army as well as disaster management officials in rescue and aid operations but the scale of the disaster has overwhelmed them.

Shehzad, who is only able to power his phone using solar panels, often has to walk for nearly an hour to reach hills where he can get an internet signal to seek help from authorities.

“We cannot go to Taunsa [about 60km (37 miles) from his village] or any other town because there is no road on which we can travel. The rain has just stopped last night, so at least that is a little respite for us,” he said.

But now he has another worry to contend with.

“Disease breakout has started, and I am worried for my children,” he said. “We have no medicine. No help. I don’t know what will I do if they fall sick.”

Source: Al Jazeera