Residents Scramble To Save Small Pakistani City

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The U.N. says makeshift relief sites for flood victims have sprung up across Pakistan's Sindh province, as water spreads to new areas. The disaster that's unfolded over the past few weeks has now reached deep into Sindh Province. Authorities say more than 2 million people have been displaced there. In Shahdakot, residents are scrambling to save their city.


The massive flood in Pakistan is still getting worse. Sindh, the nation's southernmost province, is the latest to be ravished. The flood began in Pakistan's Tibetan Plateau and has worked its way south on the Indus River.

The United Nations says makeshift relief sites for victims are springing up across Sindh. More than two million people have been displaced there.

And NPR's Julie McCarthy reports residents are scrambling to save their city.

JULIE MCCARTHY: We're standing at the embankment that is protecting the city of front of us. Behind us is the city and there's been a mad dash to try to shore up the embankment, so that the city doesnt get swamped.

Nadir Magsi, a member of the Sindh Provincial Assembly, led the community in building this levee but the danger has not passed. Water is rising at places to within a foot of the top of this dirt and stone barrier. It's all that separates the city of 200,000 people from inundation.

Magsi says on the other side of the levee, outlying villages are drowning along with massive rice fields.

Mr. NADIR MAGSI (Member, Sindh Provincial Assembly): Thousands of acres of rice crops, thousands of people - they're all wiped out, there's nothing left. Theyve never seen water like this, this volume of water thats come in and it just keeps on going. Its terrible.

MCCARTHY: Rajesh Chawla stands at the top of the levee and surveys the landscape utterly altered by the floods; once velvet green rice paddies are now waves of fast-moving gray-green water.

Chawla says the stocks in his two rice mills have been sealed and safeguarded from the flood. But that is scant consolation for a man whose fields now lie beneath a vast expanse of water.

Mr. CHAWLA: (Speaking foreign language).

McCARTHY: Chawla says there is no price tag for what has been lost. He speaks through an interpreter.

Mr. CHAWLA (Through translator) I cant explain how much I feel the pain. Not only the crops, not only the rice, but also the animals, livestock and all those things connected with agriculture destroyed. So I have no idea what we lost.

Unidentified Man: (Praying) (Speaking foreign language).

McCARTHY: In the midst of the calamity, an old man sits at the edge of the levee. Koran in hand, he mumbles prayers. He likened the flood to Judgment Day, a sentiment that many who could not comprehend the magnitude of the water repeated.

What is unfolding now in Sindh has been unfolding throughout Pakistan for the past three and half weeks. The city of Shahdadkot has been emptied of its residents, fleeing as the floodwaters drew near. They have holed up in camps, some orderly, most ad hoc, with scant food and water.

Many more have simply strung a rope and a cloth from a tree to make a bed. Millions of lives have been upended, their futures uncertain, and the flood is not over.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Shahdadkot, Pakistan.

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