August 17th, 2010
12:22 PM ET

Aid group preps for ‘second disaster’ in Pakistan

Many Pakistani streets and valleys are submerged in water, and in some areas you can't tell where the waterways end and the flooding begins.

In other locales, most of the structures are simple gone. Monsoon rains left about one-fifth of the country underwater, and children and adults wade through the filthy aftermath pleading for help.

Almost all the mud houses at Azakhel camp have been turned into clay.

Peter Biro of the International Rescue Committee, an aid agency, has surveyed the damage since relentless flooding two weeks ago washed over the country, destroying homes, taking lives and ruining entire villages.

"I was just walking down by the river and it’s completely devastated," Biro said. "Even the bigger houses are collapsing. The roofs are falling out. There are huge concrete slabs in the water and smaller houses are just gone. The poor houses have completely vanished."

In many of the areas struggling to cope with the floods, residents had already struggled with armed conflict in the area and were beginning to recover, Biro said.

That all changed with this month’s deluges.

"The big problem for the aid groups is how very difficult the area is to get through," Biro said, noting that for even aid groups and people who know the area well, getting to your destination is immensely problematic.

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"It's extraordinarily hard to get to anyone. Driving here, along the way you see all the bridges are damaged. Big concrete bridges that carried trucks are gone and, of course, the smaller bridges too," he said. "And it’s not just the big rivers that are overflowing; it’s small streams that are also creating a lot of damage, too."

The Afghan refugees have lived at Azakhel for decades. Now they have once again been forced to flee again, with many living on a highway.

Swollen rivers and tributaries in some residential neighborhoods breached their banks, making the flooding worse.

"There are just so many people who live close to one. How do you begin to fix the lives of millions of people?" Biro asked.

Despite the frustration and challenges, Biro and his IRC colleagues are pushing ahead to help whoever they can.

Once the floodwaters begin to recede, putting the Pakistani people back on their feet will be difficult. The dangers of flooded streets and villages will be replaced by the threats of contaminated drinking water, waterborne disease, cramped shelters and an inability to maintain hygiene, Biro said.

"People are being forced to drink bad water and we're seeing an increased number of diarrhea cases and skin infections," Biro said.

"And that is going to be the big challenge going forward. That's the second disaster."

A joint report last year by the U.N. and World Health Organization said diarrhea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

A refugee sits among what was formerly his home in the Azakhel camp near the city of Peshawar in Noshewera district, Khyber Pakthunkhwa province.

The IRC is hoping that by distributing water-purification tablets they can curb the spread of disease.

"The next critical step for us will be to clean out and disinfect wells and bring clean water via tanker trucks to the devastated communities," Biro said.

For many, the end seems far away. Gone not only are the towns and structures they called home but also the things Pakistanis need to subsist.

"Now the people, of course, have no income," Biro said. "They say they've lost their sewing machines, their bicycles that they run errands with. They have very little left."

For those staying in refugee camps, the situation was already desperate. Biro said one camp with 30,000 refugees was completely washed away, forcing these people to flee the very place where they once sought refuge.

At least 1,600 people have been killed and 20 million impacted by the flooding throughout Pakistan.

"They are just sitting around. A lot of them were sitting on the side of the highway under canvas tents," he said.

With aid sparse and food distribution slow because of infrastructure challenges, Pakistanis are relying on neighbors on higher ground who may have something to share.

"People keep saying that they don't have enough food. It’s donations basically, so that's a very strong component in people's survival – relying on each other," Biro said.

soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Seamus Wardowski

    Let them eat their explosives.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • dexter89

      Let NY smell the stench in that city from the wast of a decade ago! sniff sniff mofo

      August 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jar

    I just can't believe that these are the same people that were dancing around, & shouting Allah is great on the 911 attacks, and now look @ them, they aint dancing now, they are sitting around, begging for the help, not their government's help, but OUR help,, I find that funny.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jihad Watch

      I will never forget the Pakistani's response to 9/11 – let them all drown. Good Riddance!

      August 17, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jar

    I just hope Bin Laden died in the floods

    August 17, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AmericanPatriot

    Helping Pakistan is back stabbing our brave men and women died in the line of duty. Every dollar donated will be used for IED that will hurt our men and women who are fighting for us.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DT

    This is not about politics or religion, it is about simple concern for fellow humans. If you can't get that... I truly pity you.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. homer

    As I remember. These are the very people who were dancing when 9/11 took place. They even named their kids after Osama Bin Laden. They are the people who wanted to murder any writer who wrote or did cartoon of MO. That feigns anger and arrogance is visiting Pakistan.
    I thought Muslims believed Allah will take care of everything and the Koran has all the answers! I guess he’s on holidays in Europe.
    Just wait after few years USA and the West will be the enemy – most hated

    August 18, 2010 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. dsanch

    It was not an act of God as there is no God. It is a tragedy of nature. All I see here are a heartless bunch of feeble minded racist white trailer trash that I am embarrassed to share a planet with.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. reaper

    August 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. homer

    I read, that they are blaming USA and India for the flood; another conspiracy theory.

    I am also amazed, they are begging for money all over the world. But they refuse to accept $5 million from India!

    The reason could be, the money from the gullible West can be used by the army to buy more arms from the Chinese but Indian are not that gullible. They will only send goods!

    The tents donated in the Kashmir’s Earths quake, can be found being sold in the market. No doubt lot of the stuff will again be on the market.
    Welcome to New Bangladesh.

    August 19, 2010 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. haathi

    What happened in Pakistan is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the people who are suffering. In this hour of their need, Pakistanis need all the help they can get. It is indeed sad that their government and elite (who are living in comfort in their villa and mansions) have refused Indian aid and are refusing Indian medical teams from helping. Being stiff necked and playing politics on the bodies of the poorest of your own people is indeed retarded and downright criminal. I hope better sense prevails on these overlords of Pakistani awam who are only interested in one-upmanship even when their people are suffering. Shame! At least India had the sense to accept Pakistani aid after the Gujarat earthquake of 2005.

    August 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stephen

    Some problems cannot be solved. Under Islam, people are taught to have large families. To support them, they do what they must to survive. This includes deforesting the watersheds of the rivers and building their homes in the floodplains.The Pakistani population has simply exceeded the ability of that land to support that many people.

    There is no solution. We should try to relieve as much suffering as we can, but we cannot rebuild their whole country. It is mathematically impossible. This disaster is going to repeat over and over in the future until the population gets back to some semblance of balance with the environment. It is ugly and sad and inevitable.

    August 21, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Should we help?

    I'm not sure, if I still convinced here. Such a poor country like Pakistan, should they really want to spend more than $5 billion in military? Again, even if you help them now, are you sure the Pak Govt is gonna spend all that aid in helping poor people. I DONT THINK SO!

    August 22, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sarah


    September 11, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |

    flood was exam fro ALLAH who helping in emergency in this world
    so this was not punishment
    this was generally exam therefore there are pakistanie publics was supporting so much here

    June 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
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