For the people of the Awaran area of Balochistan, their discomforts have been increased by the recent inclement weather. It will be recalled that on September 24, 2013 there was an earthquake that had its epicentre 66km northeast of Awaran. At least 825 pople were killed and thousands — exact numbers are unverifiable — were injured. The Balochistan government at the time estimated that 21,000 houses had been completely destroyed. A further 22 people died two days after the original earthquake when another shook the area and ever since the people have been struggling to rebuild lives and livelihoods. Now the area has been hit by torrential rains, which have either cut or disrupted communications, and washed away bridges, including the key bridge linking Awaran to Karachi. Four villages were reportedly inundated on the night of May 14-15. They have no electricity and according to a resident of the Jao area, there have been no relief agencies operating in the area. There is said to be no potable water, crops are destroyed and food is either scarce or non-existent. Hundreds of families are reportedly stranded. Anodyne statements from the Balochistan Home Department to the effect that ‘damage assessment is under way’ does nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering of a population that was just getting back on its feet after the last natural disaster it was struck by.
The reality is that Awaran is a disaster-prone area that is remote, difficult to access and prone to outbreaks of conflict that make the task of bringing aid and relief even more difficult. This does not mean that every effort should not be made for the communities hit by the deluge. The resources exist at both the provincial and federal levels to deliver relief, but one suspects that there is a lack of political will to do so as the area is something of a nationalist hotbed. Nationalist or not, aid is needed, fast.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2014.
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