Flood Wreaks Havoc In Pakistan

Floods in Pakistan, Ausgust 2, 2010. Image by Flickr user Globovisión. CC BY-NC

Monsoons this year are certainly not a blessing for Pakistan. While they've mostly been considered the occasion for jubilation and joy and of the atypical summer rains, the recent spell that has procured a disastrous flood all across the nation is definitely not what Pakistanis were looking forward to.

The torrential monsoons struck earlier last month and Balochistan was among the earliest victims. With a total toll mounting to more than 100 by now, “a large number of people were rendered homeless after their homes were washed away by the torrential rains which hit most parts of Baluchistan, including Sibi, Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Barkhan” according to Dawn.

However, before soon, rivers Swat and Kabul in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were also raging. The inundations have inflicted maximum damage on the provincial capital, Peshawar, and the valley of Swat, an area trying to return to normal life after the devastation that resulted from an anti-Taliban operation last year. Reporting about Nowshehra, a chief region of the beautiful Swat valley, an Express Tribune writer tells that flash floods have washed away more than 10,000 homes in Nowshera Kalan and more than 5,000 people have migrated to the village and its surrounding areas.

Satellite images below by Flickr user DigitalGlob-Imagery, used under a Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND

Pir Sabdaq in April 17, 2010

Pir Sabdaq in August 2, 2010

According to the latest reports, some 1.5 million people are among the affected by the worst flood in the last 80 years. The total death toll has mounted to a monstrous 1100 and a huge populace stays aloof from all aid and rescue, stuck in water-locked areas. The worst is the lack of medical facilities available to the affected. The health conditions are fast deteriorating due to the virulent outbreak of a number of diseases including cholera and gastroenteritis. Medical teams were sent by helicopter in cut-off areas and parts of Swat.

The Pakistani blogosphere is abuzz with flood-related posts. The bloggers are not only expressing their sympathy and concern towards the victims but are also asking for a more direct, effective response from the government. Nevertheless, media outlets and blogs alike have been more actively engaged in discoursing towards the recent plane crash in Islamabad than the rampaging waters, a trend Ahsan Butt has fairly criticized at his blog:

“I find the reaction to the air plane crash yesterday versus the floods in KP fascinating. When the plane crash happened, it was all over the news channels and newspapers, taking up all the space available. But the floods are as serious, if not more so, than the air crash. As many people have died, and there has been significantly more damage to property and crops and so on. But here's the thing. It hasn't really engendered the same level of reaction from our press and blogosphere/twitterverse.”

He further cites a number of news resources expounding his point that the class difference between the victims of the two calamities has directly affected the media coverage each gets:

“Getting to the point of the post, I would argue that class really matters here. The type of person who is likely to die in an Air Blue flight, socio-economically speaking, is very different from the type of person who loses their family in flooding in KP. I'm sorry, but that's just the truth, and anyone pretending otherwise is just being silly.”

Others, more concerned about doing some actual relief work, have been floating, on facebook, blogs and twitter, lists of aid agencies that could be contacted for donations to the flood-victims. Examples are the ‘Flood Relief’ page of Secular Pakistan blog and “Links to send donations, relief good” by Beena Sarwar. LUBP (Let us Build Pakistan), another eminent Pakistani blog, has moved a step forward by directly collecting the funds and carrying relief supplies to the affected areas.

Overall, the response of Pakistan's blogosphere towards flood should most appropriately be termed mild. This is because although there have been excellent initiatives by some of the bloggers on the issue, a large number of active bloggers didn't have more than a few lines to write about it. This may owe to the fact that nearly the entire blogging community in Pakistan is situated at areas still safe from floods and remote from the actual victims. While this may reflect the insensitivity of the bloggers, this also reasserts the need to revise our conception of blog-activism, if we are to save it from the tracts of usual sensational journalism, where only the selling news is showcased.


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