Thieves compound misery in Pakistani floods

By Robert Birsel

KHANPUR, Pakistan (BestGrowthStock) – Pakistani farmer Taj Mohammad was taking his family back to his flooded village on Saturday despite the danger of rising waters to protect what few possessions he had left, not from the deluge but from thieves.

Two weeks after huge floods hit Pakistan many of the 14 million people affected have yet to get any help from the government or aid groups, and amid the desperation, there are signs of increasing lawlessness.

“There’s a dry patch and I’m taking my family back there,” said Mohammad as he and a group of relatives, including a gaggle of children, clambered onto a trailer hitched up to a farm tractor.

The tractor would take them along a flooded road in the southern province of Sindh back to his village.

“If we don’t have anyone there the robbers will come,” said Taj, who has been camping out, along with thousands of other people, on the side of a road near the southern town of Sukkur since the floods struck.

“It’s just for the safety of our animals and possessions,” he said.

The floods, caused by unusually heavy monsoon rain over the upper Indus river basin, are Pakistan’s worst natural disaster in terms of the amount of destruction and the number of people affected.

Roads and bridges have been swept away, farms and fields inundated and crops lost from the northwest of the country down to the rice-growing plains of Sindh. Up to 1,600 people have been killed.

The scale of the disaster has overwhelmed the government’s capacity to cope.

Villagers near the small town of Khanpur gathered on Saturday where a road ended and a huge inland sea began. The flood was still rising with water steadily flowing across the road into fields.

The straw roofs of abandoned huts and a few hay stacks stuck out of the water not far off.

NOTHING LEFT

Many villagers moved stocks of food and other possessions onto the roofs of their homes before evacuating, in the hope they would have something to come back to.

But at least some of them will be coming back to nothing.

Farmer Mohammad Hashim said his home had been looted after he and his family left for the safety of higher ground.

“We couldn’t take everything with us and dump it beside the road so we just got our family out, but when we came back, all our things were gone. There was nothing left,” said Hashim.

“They came in boats with guns and took everything, all the food, all the grain,” he said.

“The police are only on the roads, they don’t go to the villages. They can’t help,” he said.

Other men standing around nodded in agreement.

“There are thieves everywhere. No one can feel secure,” said one.

(Editing by Michael Georgy and Sanjeev Miglani)

Thieves compound misery in Pakistani floods