Monday, July 14, 2014

Pakistan flood victims await unfulfilled promises

IRIN: Four and a half years after a landslide and subsequent flooding in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan State killed 19 people and displaced around 25,000, a solution to the plight of local residents seems as far off as ever.

The area that used to house a handful of bustling communities is a 22km-long pool of water dubbed Attabad Lake. Looking out from its banks, the shells of dozens of homes rise up from the blue-green waters.

In the aftermath of this disaster in the Hunza Valley, there were immediate commitments by the Pakistani authorities that they would drain the area and resettle the displaced families in new territory, but residents say nothing has happened, that compensation has been inadequate, and that the government is prioritizing the rebuilding of a nearby highway to China. Many of those who protested have been thrown in jail, with some awaiting trial in special anti-terrorism courts on charges of arson and sedition.

The warning signs of the landslide had been noticeable for several months before the day of the crash, said Sahib Jan, a programme officer with Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an international group of agencies affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network. Three months before the slide, they realized a crisis was coming. “We literally dragged people out of their homes, telling them their lives were in danger,” recalled Jan.

In the end the slide was more devastating than anyone had feared. "We evacuated several other villages, up to 100km downstream, out of fear the earthen dam created by the landslide would burst,” Jan added....

The Hunza Valley, shot by Yasin Chaudhry, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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