PESHAWAR/QUETTA/KARACHI: Catastrophic floods in Pakistan have affected the lives of over 33 million people, causing about 1,200 deaths, massive damage to infrastructure and internal displacement since the beginning of monsoon in June.
Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman has blamed the country’s erratic weather condition for the ongoing “crisis of unimaginable proportions,” as several other officials, including planning minister Ahsan Iqbal and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, have said the rehabilitation work will take years and cost more than $10 billion.
With crops destroyed and livelihoods gone, people in flood-affected areas seem to have little reason for hope amid the country’s bleak economic situation. Yet, the South Asian nation is known for its resilience in the face of adversity and has even witnessed the emergence of extraordinary individuals who saved local communities in the middle of rainstorms and floods.
Arab News has prepared a brief list of people who displayed exceptional courage and commitment during the climate disaster.
Qurat ul Ain Wazir, civil servant
Hailing from conservative South Waziristan tribal district, Qurat ul Ain Wazir is an additional deputy commissioner of Nowshera city that is located right next to the Kabul River in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Wazir went from door to door while walking in waist-deep water to convince people to evacuate their settlements.
In a tribute to her efforts, a social media user shared her photographs in a post while saying that anyone opposing education for girls should be shown Wazir’s images while she was saving lives.
Qasim Shah, a retired army officer who played the role of Captain Gul Sher in a popular television play, Alpha Bravo Charlie, also applauded Wazir for her “dedication, professionalism and sense of duty.”
Speaking to Arab News, the additional deputy commissioner said she had witnessed the devastation caused by floods in 2010 which made her serve more diligently since she wanted to protect her community from further destruction.
“This isn’t an easy job,” she said. “We had to manage everything very systematically from the beginning. I had to keep heavy machinery and manpower ready to face the flood and emergency situation which also helped me deal with the situation more effectively.”
Wazir said she was “living in a patriarchal society” where it proved challenging for her to convince families to evacuate their homes.
“I was asked to move around with the police but I told my seniors that I could do my job better without them,” she recalled. “I personally went to make announcements from mosques, but the community did not pay much heed when they heard the voice of a woman on loudspeaker.”
Later, she went from door to door to tell people to leave their homes.
She said she was happy that she could save her community members from the devastation that accompanied the floods in other areas of Pakistan.
“This has further emboldened me to work with renewed dedication,” she continued.
Farman Ullah, volunteer
A resident of Dir in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Farman Ullah has been hailed for his immense bravery.
Speaking to Arab News, he said he saw some people who were stranded in the middle of a powerful flash flood with their three children, though he did not know how to rescue them.
“I had no equipment to save their lives,” he recalled. “I was clueless about how to save them, but I rushed to a nearby house and managed to find a rope and a charpoy. The level of water was rapidly rising. But I put my life at risk while rescuing them.”
Farman Ullah used the light bedstead to bring the stranded people to safety while using the rope.
He said he was happy to save lives since it was his longstanding desire.
Mansoor Ahmed Qazi, civil servant
Pakistan’s information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb praised the deputy commissioner of Sibi, Mansoor Ahmed Qazi, who prevented his entire city in Balochistan province from getting inundated.
“The DC diverted the flood water to the river again saving the city after spending around sleepless 48 hours in work,” she said.
Speaking to Arab News, Qazi said he did not sleep for about 50 hours after discovering that heavy flood was moving toward Sibi.
“With the help of two heavy excavators, we succeeded in reversing the water to Nari river by digging a 500 feet breach at two different points which saved the population of 100,000 people living in Sibi,” he said.
“When the administrator stands with people during an emergency, it gives people more confidence and helps develop trust toward the government,” he continued.
1122, rescue service
A Washington-based journalist, Joyce Karam, hailed Rescue 1122, a government emergency response organization, for saving the life of a cat by undertaking a dangerous operation.
“Not all heroes wear capes: Rescuer in #Pakistan saves a cat’s life, as country struggles with apocalyptic floods,” she tweeted.
— Naimat Khan in Karachi also contributed to this report