Penny Sims, Red Cross communications delegate, reports back from Pakistan:
Six months after the floods, most people would believe the water should have drained away by now. After all, six months is a long time. Surely it’s over now?
As we drive further south through Sindh province, it becomes increasingly clear this is not the case. Once out of the cities, the only areas that really escaped the floods, we see the situation created by the flood waters – smashed walls of buildings, piles of rubble.
And then mile upon mile of water. In some places, the water stretches out as far as the eye can see, right out to the horizon. There are occasional landmarks – the odd tree or building. The raised field boundaries and reflected sky create a strange image, as if we are looking at a patchwork of endless fields made of glass.
We pull over at the side of the road to take in the scene. The tops of submerged crops peek out from the water’s edge. Compared to some of the dry fields further north, which were a hive of activity as farmers load huge, colourful trucks with their harvest, this area is eerily still and silent.
A young boy runs along a field edge towards us. He has something he wants to tell me. My Urdu isn’t up to much, but the boy is mute, and tells the story of what happened here through actions, miming the huge walls of water that swept through, leaving the whole area under water. His arms are held high as he shows the height, and the force. Then he looks at me, arms spread wide, as he shows the desolation of this neighbourhood. We nod and gesticulate to show him we understand what he is telling us, and he runs back to his father, his story told.
As we travel further into the villages, there are moments of tragic beauty. Where the water laps at the village perimeters, it’s easy to be fooled momentarily, as you take in what looks like a tranquil lake. But of course there was no lake here before – this is dirty, stagnant flood water, covering what used to be a field. It’s a dangerous breeding ground for disease, but when clean water could be up to 5 km away, of course people are using this to bathe in, as well as washing their clothes and cooking pots.
The ground underneath is so saturated, it is taking months and months for the water to drain away. Natural drainage has been totally overwhelmed. Where the water has gone, it has left behind a hard, sun-baked layer of earth. But this can be deceptive – stray away from the path and you can soon find that layer cracks, as you sink up to the top of your boots in gooey grey mud.
Find out what the Red Cross is doing to help people recovery from the floods
Image 1 © IFRC
Image 2 and 3 © Olivier Mathys/IFRC