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Town cut off by Pakistan floods forces men to trek miles across mountains and valleys to get food

It is an example of how powerful a natural disaster can be. This was evident as we traveled north to the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

Whole villages are swept away and towns are divided in half. A hydroelectric power station is destroyed and overwhelmed. Bridges and roads along the route are also destroyed.

As with other disasters, although the rains that caused this destruction may have stopped, the consequences of the disaster have not.

One week later, the suffering of those who survived continues to grow.


Although the aid is urgently needed and well-intentioned, the chaos that its arrival causes can be quite disturbing.

Many men wait for relief trucks to arrive at ad-hoc distribution points.

We witnessed hundreds of men ramming into one of these trucks without police supervision.

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They ignored the delivery men with their thick hose pipes and climbed on board to grab everything and everyone inside.

We continued our journey north to reach Bahrain, which is a popular tourist destination along the banks of River Swat.

It is now divided in two, and a torrent of water rushes through the town center. The main bridge has been washed away.

So there is always food in the Swat Valley’s southern section.

Image The miles-long journey of aid begins by men.

People walk on rickety planks in fast-moving water

Everything to the north has been cut.

They have constructed makeshift, rickety bridges across the water – each no more than one plank wide – and more dangerous, cable trolleys are strung across flood-created ravines by wire.

These people live in the area and cross the swift-flowing waters to ferry supplies to homes that have not been affected by the flood.

All houses and businesses along the riverfront have been destroyed or washed away.

Many people who live here find life difficult, but manageable.

Imran Khan, a thirty-year-old man whose family owns an hotel, claims he found higher ground after the centre of town was struck. He and others were stunned by the force of the water.

Image: Imran Kan, 30

He says, “It was so so, so so, so dangerous. We were so afraid when the water came and flowed. It was a large amount of water coming.”

He also said that people are becoming anxious and angry due to the slow pace at which aid is arriving.

“People are cut off by bridges being washed away in the flood,” but, alhamdulillah! Local people help each other a bit. But, the relief isn’t enough for us. We need lots of food and medicines, as well as items for shelters, homes, and so on …”.

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Explained – Pakistan’s ‘worst ever floods

200,000 people stranded in

Bahrain is an important country because it is the gateway to Swat’s north, to Kalam and to the villages beyond.

There are as many as 200,000 people stranded there, and they are completely cut off.

We filmed men with very heavy looking bags, hundreds of them, all going in the same direction. Some were alone. Others were with their families.

Clambering on rocks and moving fast, determined but exhausted.

Image Street destroyed, lined with hotels

We were told by people that the men came from Kalam Valley and further afield on foot.

Their journeys involved climbing high mountains and following dangerous tracks. It took them six to nine hours each way. The valley is 36km (22 mi) away.

Because they have families waiting to eat, it is impossible for them to choose but this difficult journey.

Pakistan Army helicopters are trying to drop aid in the valley. However, with over 200,000 people in dire need, all they can do is drop a few drops in the ocean.

The north-bound journey begins at a wooden plank bridge, which creaks under the weight of men who stream across it.

Stewards at each end try to control the flow, in the fear that the bridge might collapse.

Image Road washed away in flood

“It’s a very difficult walk, you must climb up hillstops and traverse mountains.

Khalid was wearing a red baseball cap to protect his face from the sun’s rays. He carried lentils, flour and oil in a large rucksack.

He was returning to his wife, children and mother.

Image Khalid from Kalam carries a backpack containing supplies

He explained that he was planning to drive another 36 km to Kalam Valley… It will take me at most six hours,” he said, wiping away the sweat from his forehead.

It’s a difficult walk. You can see that I’m already sweaty. I have this heavy load. The path isn’t good.

It is quite shocking to see the extent of destruction in Bahrain. Many buildings were washed away but it is likely that even the ones still standing should be condemned.

Although they are perched precariously high above the floodwaters, most of them were engulfed to at least three stories and all of their foundations will be damaged by the waters.

Women wash their clothes and dry it on the rocks that have been deposited and the boulders that have crashed through the town.

A couple of 100-year-olds have never seen anything similar

Shamshaya, surrounded by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other family members, is found in one building with its front fascia ripped away.

She is 105 years of age, frail, but full of inner strength.

Image by Bahrain resident Shamshaya. 105

Through her long time in the Swat Valley she has seen many things, but she says that life has changed.

She clutches her blue prayer beads and says that the weather has changed.

Chari Gul, a centenarian, said that Shamshaya’s husband added: “This is a catastrophe, the flood destroyed all.”

Image of Shamshaya’s husband Chari Gul

“I’m 115-120 years old and have never seen floods like these in my entire life.”

“They are cutting down the forests. That’s why the weather has changed – we now have more rain and it is getting warmer.”

As everything around this town has been destroyed, the real priority is to redirect the river and build bridges and roads to the north.

Image River flow is redirected by diggers

The diggers lift and drop boulders into the water to try to block the flow. If the people of the north need any relief, time is crucial.

Pakistan is a country where neither faith nor resolve are doubtable, but it is overwhelming and desperately needs help.


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