It’s all about honour. People, men rather, refused to evacuate from their homes in the kachcha and vulnerable areas near the swelling Indus River because “their honour is at stake”.
“We don’t want our women to be exposed to men of other tribes,” feared villagers. As protective embankments collapse, villages submerge and the water level rises, people refuse to budge from their homes despite repeated reminders and warnings.
The navy’s Lieutenant Aftab, who is also incharge of the Faridabad embankment, told The Express Tribune that people won’t leave their houses because they cannot take their women to relief camps. “This is absolutely ridiculous!” he exclaimed. “All they care about is honour in this state of emergency.”
The water level at the embankment rose to eight-and-a-half feet on Sunday evening.
For the last week, Pakistan Army, Navy and government authorities have been making evacuation announcements but all have been falling on deaf ears.
Initially, around 20 boats were sent for villagers who were stranded in floodwater. Navy and army personnel, along with scout volunteers, continued to warn people. They announced evacuations through megaphones and tried explaining to the people that they were there to help them.
Even after lingering in the area and making announcements for about one-and-a-half hours, the villagers snubbed the authorities. The army is evacuating us now, and later they will use our villages for training camps for the armed forces, the villagers claimed.
“We will cooperate with the armed forces only if they provide us with boats so that we can move our valuables ourselves. But we will not let our women leave their houses,” said social worker Sanaullah Mehasar, while standing in waist-high water.
The armed forces sent boats to the villages but tribes, particularly the Narejo and the Khoas, refused to evacuate, claiming that the water level poses no threat as it will decrease overnight.
Even at Ulra Jageer, where the water level rose to nine feet, people shrugged off the calls for rescue and 350 people were still voluntarily stranded.
However, according to government figures, 97 villages with a population of 20,582 are situated inside the protective bunds and many of them were already evacuated to 12 relief camps.
Take out the picnic basket
People gathered at the Larkana-Khairpur bridge on Sunday, altering the vulnerable bridge into a picnic spot. Despite the continuous rise in the water level, people from Razidero and around the area spent their weekend on a bridge that authorities believe might collapse during the flood.
Abdul Hameed Solangi’s family came from Larkana to “see the beautiful scenery” as the water level under the bridge has never been so high. “We wanted to enjoy and show our children the bridge before it collapses,” he said.
Once the water level in the Sukkur Barrage crosses 1.2 million cusecs, floodwater will gush under the Larkana-Khairpur bridge, making its surrounding areas extremely dangerous.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.
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