Hundreds of people are stranded along the river in the Manoor Valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after a flash flood hit the area on Friday, destroying at least ten bridges and dozens of buildings.
“We need supplies, we need medicine and please rebuild the bridge, we are left with nothing now.” These are the contents of a handwritten note that villagers drop on our group when we visit.
Manoor Valley is located in the Kaghan Mountains – a famous tourist destination in Pakistan. The valley was hit by a flash flood that killed at least 15 people, including women and children.
The floods swept away the only concrete bridge that connects the picturesque valley to the main town. Since then, all the villages on the other side of the river have been cut off and residents are waiting for help.
The BBC team reached the valley after a perilous one-hour drive where the road was damaged in several places due to floods and landslides.
At Manoor, two bridges have completely collapsed and a temporary wooden bridge has been erected. Here, we meet a woman sitting with her belongings. She tells the BBC she can see her house, but she can’t reach it.
“My house and my children are on the other side of the river. I have been waiting here for two days and I am thinking that the government might come and repair the bridge. But the authorities tell us that we have to start walking to the other side of the mountain to reach our homes. But that’s an eight to ten hour hike. I’m an old woman. How can I walk so far?”
He waits a few more minutes and leaves when the rain starts again and the water flowing under the temporary wooden bridge begins to swell.
We see men, women and children sitting outside their mud houses on the other side of the river. They wave at us thinking we are government officials.
That’s when some of them throw a piece of paper across the river to us, packing it in a plastic bag full of rocks to throw on the side of the river where we’re shooting video. This is the only way they can communicate with the other part of the village these days. Mobile networks do not work here.
The handwritten letter contains information about the losses they are facing and also requests supplies and medicine for the trapped villagers.
“Many people are sick and cannot leave the village on foot. Please build the bridge, it is the main connection to the city,” the letter said.
“We need supplies We need a road,“Abdul Rasheed, 60, tells us talking about his ordeal. He has lost his wagon to the flood – his only means of earning money to feed his family.
“There are many other people who have lost their property and income,” he says. “They need help. They need food. There was a small market here that got carried away. The stores had all the food and supplies.
“My home is on the other side and now I will have to walk eight hours to get home. How can I do this at such an old age?” he asks.
Many shops and hotels have been destroyed here. Soheil and his brother have lost their mobile phone workshop to the flood.
He tells the BBC he has three families to feed and is uncertain about his future now. “I don’t know what to do. No one has come here to help us as we deserve. Every shopkeeper here is worried. They are all poor people who have big families to feed,” he says.
“These authorities and politicians come here for photo ops and entertainment. They come, take photos and leave. Nobody helps us.”
However, the district’s deputy commissioner tells the BBC that a comprehensive rescue and relief operation was immediately carried out in the area and all hotels have been evacuated. He adds that an assessment has already been made for material damage.
“We have completed the assessment and the flood victims will be compensated soon,” he said. “Work has already started to rebuild the bridge, but it will take some time.”
In Pictures: Floods and fear in Pakistan
While the government blames climate change for the floods, communities criticize the government and local authorities for allowing developers to build hotels on the banks of the river.
“These hotels and markets have blocked the natural waterways and that is why we are witnessing much greater losses due to the floods which could have been easily avoided,” says another resident in Kaghan’s main market.
Many hotels are built on the banks of the Kunhar river in Kaghan and the adjoining valleys. The floods destroyed some of them, along with a police station and a religious school.
A few hundred meters from the police station, a family sits in a makeshift tent right on the river bank. They say eight members of their family were swept away by the same flood.
Heavy rains and floods are wreaking havoc across Pakistan.
More than 1,000 people have been killed while millions have been displaced. Officials say at least 700,000 homes have been destroyed.
With millions waiting for food, drinking water and shelter, rescue teams are struggling to reach these cut off communities. Provinces such as Sindh and Balochistan are the worst affected, but mountainous areas in Khyber Pakhtunkha have also been severely affected.
Pakistani troops have also been called in to help aid agencies reach flood-affected areas, as road links have been destroyed and the only way to reach most communities is by helicopter.
The government of Pakistan is also appealing to friendly countries, donors and international financial institutions to help them deal with the disaster.
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