“The water came and now everything is gone”

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Nowshera has been devastated by the recent floods

Mammoth, incessant rains in Pakistan have destroyed homes and property, affecting tens of millions and leaving more than 1,000 dead.

Two BBC correspondents on the ground in the north and south of the country broadcast the devastation they see.

Nowshera, North Pakistan

Second Kermani

Walking the flood-ravaged streets of the suburbs of the northern city of Nowshera, residents are beginning to try to return to their homes to survey the damage and see what they can salvage.

Some used black rubber tubes to float along the muddy brown water, which was up to their chests at times, others eagerly waded through it.

A market in Nowshera

Residents cross the flooded market road in Nowshera

Imadullah, a chef, with his young son perched on his shoulders, had just made it to his family’s home. All their belongings were piled up, covered in mud and largely unused.

“We have nothing else,” he told the BBC, “We couldn’t save anything, only the lives of our children.”

Further down the waterlogged street, two women held each other for support as they tried to push their way home. But the water was too deep.

“We don’t know if it’s still standing or if it’s fallen,” said one, “I don’t know how we’re going to rebuild it. We live in a camp in a school. God is my witness, we don’t do it for money.”

Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed or partially damaged across the country, leaving millions homeless. Pakistani officials estimate about $10 billion worth of damage has been caused, raising concerns of food shortages with crops disappearing.

Flooded furniture and debris inside a flooded house in Nowshera

The damage inside one of the flooded houses in the city

Many now live in relief camps. Not far from Nowshera, hundreds of others have set up tents by the highway, from where they can at least keep an eye on their homes, hoping to be able to return once the water recedes further.

“It’s so painful I can’t put it into words,” says Rosina, as her seven children run around beside her.

Rosina and her family of young children sit on a carpet in the tent they have been evacuated to by the side of the road

Rosina and her family live in a tent on the side of a road

Heavy monsoon rainfall is an annual phenomenon, but not on this scale. Parts of Pakistan have seen many times more rain than during a typical year.

The summer rain is the heaviest on record for a decade and government ministers say the country is paying the price for global climate change, despite contributing only a small proportion of global emissions.

Speaking to the BBC at a briefing held for foreign journalists, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif rejected criticism that officials were slow to respond when the floods began earlier this summer.

“Certainly we will learn from our experience,” he said, “but the world community must stand by us today, there is a yawning gap between our demands and what we are receiving up to now.”

Shehbaz Sharif

Prime Minister Sharif made a desperate plea for international help

Saeedabad, South Pakistan

Pumza Fihlani

The rains have stopped in parts of Pakistan – but the disaster is not over. Severe floods in the north are traveling to the southern regions of the country where large areas of land are already uninhabited.

Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed – and millions of people impoverished. In Saeedabad, Pakistan’s Sindh province, hundreds of people live at the edge of a dirt road – where the road ends, waist-deep water begins.

In the background you can see their houses, in some the water reaches up to the window.

Banul and her family

Banul and her family

I met Banul in a tent with 15 children – some her own, some nieces and nephews. She is happy that they are all alive, but now she is worried about feeding the children.

“We have been staying here for weeks, no house, just a tent for all of us. We need help. We could only save our lives,” says Banul.

“Back home we were farmers. We had cotton, we had corn. Everything was ready – the water came and now everything is gone. We have nothing and we have no food.”

People check the damage in their houses in the wake of floods in Sanghar district, Sindh province, Pakistan, August 29, 2022.

Clearing in Sindh – countless properties damaged or destroyed

On this dirt road to nowhere, people can go for days without eating sometimes. When a food truck passes by, the food runs out quickly and not everyone gets fed.

Local workers are overstretched and say they don’t have enough resources. Relief efforts have been unpredictable, especially in remote communities where untarred roads have been swallowed by water.

One of the biggest challenges aid workers will face when or if international aid arrives will be how to get it to those who need it – when roads are impassable and thousands of people remain trapped in water.

But for these people, help is their last hope to survive the tragedy that visited and took so much from them.

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