Floods in Pakistan calling Goans…
August 24, 2010 - God’s wrath has befallen Pakistan. We are in the
midst of a catastrophic disaster, one of the biggest natural calamities
in recent human history. The devastation is so extensive that it has
taken away an estimated 2000 plus lives, swept away a million homes,
made 2.5 million people homeless and left more than 3 million hungry!
This is a global appeal calling the Pakistani Goan Diaspora in all
parts of the world to read through this overview of the massive human
suffering and displacement in Pakistan and make any effort possible to
contribute towards medical supplies and other life-saving drugs. Your
efforts may be channelized through various international aid agencies
that are already working in Pakistan – Unicef, Oxfam, International Red
Cross, Christian Aid, Mercy Corp., World Food Organization and others.
The people of the northern areas of Pakistan are quite accustomed to
harsh weather conditions, heavy snowfalls, landslides, breakaway
glaciers, hailstorms and the annual rainfall. It’s a way of life. But
this year has been different, overwhelming and tragic too!
On July 28, 2010, bad weather forced a passenger airliner (Air Blue
ED-202) to crash into Islamabad’s wooded area, minutes before
approaching the runway, killing all 152 people on board. A week later
came the incessant rains, the melting of snow-covered mountains in the
Karakoram Range and the swelling of rivers that flow into the Indus and
its tributaries – it has not stopped since!
Firstly, the flood waters ravaged through the regions of Khyber
Pakhthunkhwa (formerly NWFP) destroying people’s homes and displacing
thousands of rural folks to safer but inaccessible areas. A few days
later the water levels in the Ravi and Sutlej rose to alarming heights
breaching dykes and flooding the lush green fertile fields of Punjab,
and finally entering Sindh to wreak havoc on the people of interior
According to recent estimates (Wikipedia), floods in Pakistan have
damaged an estimated 2,433 miles of highway and 3,508 miles of railway,
17 million acres of fertile crop land has been submerged, including over
700,000 acres of lost cotton crops, 200,000 acres of sugar cane and
200,000 acres of rice, in addition to the loss of over 500,000 tonnes of
stocked wheat, 300,000 acres of animal fodder and stored grain losses.
More than 200,000 livestock were killed in the Punjab alone.
The great flood, worst in 80 years, swallowed everything that came in
its way, homes, schools, markets, bridges and roads, animals,
settlements on both sides of river banks, crashing through dykes and
roaring past barrages with speeds in excess of 900,000 cusecs’. The
reservoirs at Tarbela and Mangla Dams and other smaller ones overflowed
and suddenly, there was a cry for the Kalabagh Dam – a damned project
since partition for no good reason.
Sindh has been perilously devastated, more than 35% of the province is
inundated with water and the breakaway tide is threatening the cities of
Sukkur, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Thatta, Larkhana and Hyderabad.
Notwithstanding, the impending danger, the barrages – Guddu, Sukkur
(formerly Lloyd) and Kotri – have to a great extent ‘saved’ the province
from complete destruction.
There is an interesting piece of information about the planning and
constructing of these famous barrages of Pakistan, formerly in the Sindh
district of undivided India. These structures are masterful projects,
pure engineering excellence considering the time and era they were built
in. It is believed some Goans were involved in these projects and played
a pioneering role in building these formidable salvos for the Pakistan
of the future – and here we are today, the truth and reality is at our
Here is an excerpt taken from the book “Karachi – Megacity of Our Times”
by Hamida Khuhro and Anwer Mooraj and published by the Oxford University
Press in 1997 on the occasion of the 50 Years of Pakistan (1947 – 1997).
In the section on ‘The Founding Fathers of Modern Karachi’ – Chapter 5
(Page 126) the book reveals: “Mr. Cincinnatus F. D’Abreo (1856 – 1925)
was one of the ‘Twelve Leaders of Sindh’ who lobbied for the government
sanctioning and construction of the Lloyd Barrage and Canals at Sukkur.
These plans to irrigate Sindh had been drawn up in 1912…the scheme was
finally pushed through due to vocal Sindhi demands and completed in 1935
– it transformed the entire agriculture, trade and economy of Sindh.”
I am told there were some Goan engineers who worked on this project at
the time of its construction, prominent being the Sindhi-speaking Mr.
Frank D’Abreo whose name appears in the Lloyd’s museum in close
proximity of the barrage. (Any known information on this subject would
be welcomed with due credits at
Coming back to the floods, Pakistan is not geared up to handle such a
major human disaster - it is of enormous proportions. Its magnitude in
terms of loss of lives, property and displacement of people is more
alarming than what happened during the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2006
Pakistan Earthquake, 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the 1998
Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans – combined!
Relief efforts are under way, scores of people (young and old),
companies (local and foreign), non-government organizations, aid
agencies, charitable & welfare societies and humanitarian groups, and
thousands of volunteers are doing all that is possible. Political
parties are also doing their song and dance. Road side collection of
ration and clean drinking water, clothes, medical supplies and
life-saving drugs, are a common site everywhere; neighborhoods have
set-up ‘relief camps’ outside their homes, apartment blocks. There is
concern and succor from the people of the country, everyone is shocked
and doing whatever is possible but this tragedy is beyond anyone’s grasp
– it needs serious global attention, yours and mine!
From a health perspective, children are among the worst hit, there is
possibility of spread of an epidemic, diseases and water-borne ailments
abound the camps. Malaria, pneumonia, typhoid, measles, skin infection,
gastroenteritis, vomiting, mal-nutrition and diarrhea are being treated
in thousands at medical camps spread allover in the flood-hit areas.
There is an acute shortage of doctors and medical teams.
There is no civil organization in the country capable of managing the
disaster or reaching the people who are in distress – it is difficult
and therefore, nobody can be blamed. The army, navy and the air force
are the only units that can reach people who are marooned – by boats,
hovercraft and helicopters. In Sindh alone, it is reported that 124
helicopters and 43 C-130 aircraft are taking part in the relief
operations. According to UN reports, 4 million people have been saved
and taken to safer places and camps where temporary shelters have been
erected, food is prepared and distributed; but there is chaos and
Politically, there is no sign of a unified command. Politicians are on a
spree – it’s a plethora of photo-ops! More and more committees are being
formed, each one making a plea for global aid, financial in particular!
It has been slow by all counts; there is an apparent mistrust on where
and how the funds will be used, both by the comity of nations, donor
agencies and philanthropists too! Its bad news for Pakistan and its
leadership, but there is God, and thus, there is Hope!
People, particularly in the southern province of Sindh, are traumatized,
on one hand their homes have been swept away, cultivated land submerged
in rising waters, crops shattered and they have no clue of the
whereabouts of their near and dear ones. Everyday there is anguish and
despair but they are defiant and will not loose hope.
Some villagers are staying behind, spending days and nights on dangerous
rooftops, clinging to their meager belongings on tree trunks and
branches, in the hope that water will recede and they would be able to
start their lives again. They are scared but also want to stay back on
their properties, their ‘homes’ – their only possession, and hoping that
the Almighty will have pity on their plight and rescue them from
These people have done nothing wrong but ‘death, destruction and
desolation’ has befallen them. Such is the mystery of life!
back to articles..