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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Anger and despair in Balochistan
A cyclone has caused devastating floods in Pakistan's Balochistan province, with 800,000 people hit and many thousands of homes destroyed. The BBC's Ilyas Khan is in Turbat, one of the worst-affected towns, where he has been seeing the terrible effects of the storm.

The scene is one of total devastation.

children pull bamboo sticks from collapsed houses in Turbat
Rows of houses have become fields of mud and debris

Gushing flood waters from the Kech Kaur river ploughed through a vast area on both sides, levelling entire villages, chopping down date palms and destroying crops over thousands of acres.

"The floods came with a roar, and they were upon us before we knew," says Bijar Baloch.

As the dykes of the river gave way to the rising tide of water, Mr Baloch and around 30 others worked on in their date palm orchards near Solband village, believing they would be out of the area by the time the water reached their fields.

But a stream broke through from the hills on the other side, surrounding them completely. "Before they knew, the water was up to their knees and the roads had breached. The only way left was up - to the rooftop of a nearby mosque," says Mr Baloch.

They were rescued from there by a Pakistan Navy helicopter 38 hours later.

Vanished homes

Others say that when the waters rushed in, they got their women and children out and tried to run for higher ground, leaving their homes behind.

Gulab Ahmad
Gulab Ahmad's village lacks food, shelter and clean water

In most cases, those homes are no more.

Row upon row of houses have now become desolate fields of dried mud and uprooted bush. In some areas there is not a trace that a human settlement ever existed there.

In one village there is a wide storm water channel with a sandy bed scarred by ditches and uprooted rocks as speeding waters tore through it.

"Until Tuesday morning, it was a football ground belonging to the school that you can see there," says Ubaid Shad, a Turbat resident.

The rising water in Mirani dam, 43km south-west of Turbat, caused waters in the Kech Kaur river to overflow on both sides, inundating more than 40 villages along the entire length of the river between the dam and Turbat city, the headquarters of Kech district.

"Some 50,000 people have been rendered homeless in the area," says Bashir Ahmad Baloch, vice-chairman of Mekran Resource Centre, an advocacy group based in Turbat.

This does not include people rendered homeless in Buleda and Dasht subdivisions of Kech districts, or in the coastal towns of Pasni, Gwadar and Jewani which were hit by the cyclone on Tuesday, he says.

Most of these people have taken refuge at school buildings and mosques. Some have moved in with relatives in safer parts of the city.

"Everything is lost. Our crops, our food stores, our irrigation system, our water wells," says Gulab Ahmad. "Our roads have turned to ditches and our villages have become riverbeds. I cannot even imagine how we are going to bring it back to life."

Supplies inadequate

But women have not given up.

Herding their children ahead of them, groups of women, old and young, walk between their shelters in the city centre and the debris of their houses in their villages, trying to salvage their belongings before they are stolen.

My village is gone, the animals are rotting under the debris, and when we shouted ourselves hoarse that we did not want the dam, they said it was meant for our benefit
Village councillor Nusrat Bizinjo

"It's hot, and there is no drinking water, so the women work for a while, then they walk back to their shelters in the hope of water and shade. Then they come back again," says Gulab Ahmad.

The wells in the villages were filled with mud during the floods. The tube wells, or boreholes, which need electricity to draw water from deep underground, went silent when the power supply system for the entire district was destroyed.

Some wealthy local people have distributed food among the homeless. Others bring in water on four-by-four vehicles for those rummaging through the debris.

But not a single official has yet traversed the breached roads to these areas, which are no further than 5-10km from the city centre.

There have been reports of relief and food supplies being flown in by military transport planes but the supplies have not reached the people.

Many believe, moreover, that one or two aircraft will make no difference to the scale of misery that afflicts the people.

Anger at officials

Much of the damage done to the roads linking the city to the affected areas was caused by storm water drains breaching the bridges, and could easily be rectified by a bulldozer from the district government.

women and children take shelter in a school
Many have taken refuge in school buildings and mosques

Understandably, there is anger among the people.

"My village is gone, the animals are rotting under the debris, and when we shouted ourselves hoarse that we did not want the dam, they said it was meant for our benefit," shouts Nusrat Bizinjo, a village councillor.

Mr Bizinjo and others led a charged crowd that attacked the local government offices in the city and then ransacked the offices of the district police chief.

Half an hour after talking to the BBC, he was lying unconscious on a hospital bed, with minor injuries and after having been affected by tear gas fired by police on the crowd.

The police fired dozens of shells, and also fired in the air after the district police chief was hit on the head by a stone thrown by one of the protesters.

Aid pleas after Pakistan cyclone
29 Jun 07 |  South Asia
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26 Jun 07 |  South Asia
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24 Jun 07 |  South Asia

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