August 28, 2010 / 12:10 PM / 8 years ago

Pakistanis too broken to rebuild in flood crisis

MADYAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Shah-e-Roon doesn’t have the energy, money or support from Pakistan’s government to help Madyan recover from floods that decimated the small town nearly a month ago.

People cross the Swat River on a zipline after a bridge was washed away by floods near Madyan in Pakistan's Swat Valley August 27, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

He has been walking for two days with a 20-kg (44 lb) sack of wheat on his back. Food shortages caused by the disaster have sent prices soaring and the only market he can afford is many kilometers away.

“How can I think about rebuilding? I have no way of making money and I am just too tired,” said the 50-year-old farmer.

Madyan, in the northwest Swat valley, looks more like an earthquake zone than a flood-stricken area.

Four-storey hotels that fueled the local economy vanished. Buildings have been flattened, with cars sandwiched between slabs of concrete. Roads were dragged down and all that’s left behind are 30-meter (100-foot) dirt cliffs crumbling into a river.

Pakistan’s government was heavily criticized after its sluggish response to the floods, which hit about one-third of the country, made more than 6 million homeless, and threaten to the bring the economy to its knees without outside intervention.

The government could redeem itself by being more visible in the rebuilding effort. There is no sign of that in Madyan.

Sajad Ibrahim’s father worked in oil power Saudi Arabia for 36 years to save enough to build five homes for his family. Flood waters pulverized them along with his business.

“I have nothing. The government has done nothing. How can we go on like this without anyone’s help?” he said.

A man carries bedding material up a temporary foot track where the Swat River has washed away the road to Madyan in Pakistan's Swat Valley August 27, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Two soldiers have been bulldozing rocks and cement chunks in Madyan. They only cleared an area about 10 meters (33 ft) wide by 30 meters (100 ft) long in seven days.


Another soldier encourages everyone who walks along the muddy area to carry a stone and place it in a pile near workers who are rebuilding the foundations of a collapsed bridge.

Spirits had been rising in Madyan over the last year. Hotels overlooking the Swat river and beautiful lush mountains had started to attract tourists again after the army had pushed out Taliban insurgents.

The government promised to invest heavily in infrastructure, schools and hospitals and build up security and police forces.

Some, like Mohammad Azam, were ecstatic. He fled after the Taliban warned him to close his “immoral” DVD shop or face death and then rushed rushed back when it was safe and restarted his business.

Little did he know that floods would pound his new third-floor shop into the river.

Already overwhelmed by the catastrophe in many other parts of Pakistan, the government may not have the time or resources to help the people of Madyan. But few here are willing to give it any slack.

Murad Badshah, who wonders how he is going to keep his waiters and cooks employed at his Hotel Seven Star, says the only way Madyan can recover is with a massive dose of foreign aid. He doubts it will ever arrive.

“The government is robbing everything from us,” he said. “If this continues there will be lots of angry young men here. They could join the Taliban. They have nothing else to do.”

Editing by Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson

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