JACOBABAD, Pakistan (AlertNet) - Ghulam Qadir suffered a heart attack when he saw the rushing floodwaters swamping the rice crop he had been about to harvest in the village of Bakhshapur.
“My father crashed to the ground in agony when he saw the damage to his 22 acres (8.9 hectares) of rice,” said Qadir’s 21-year-old son Bilal Hussain. “His life was saved by quick medical attention, but doctors say it will take months for him to recover from the shock.”
Qadir, 49, is one of about 4.8 million people affected by the monsoon rains - the heaviest for more than a century - that lashed the country in the first two weeks of September, killing more than 420 people, injuring nearly 3,000 and devastating 2.2 million acres (890,000 hectares) of crops.
The widespread flooding, which hit Pakistan for a third successive year, has left some 350,000 people in temporary camps, most of them without tents, safe sanitation or clean drinking water, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Pakistani meteorologists say climate change is making the annual monsoon rains increasingly erratic and hard to predict. In response, government agencies are using aid from Japan and international organisations to acquire advanced weather forecasting technology to improve their forecasts.
Rice, cotton, sugar and vegetable crops have been damaged or lost and transport disrupted, reducing supplies to local food markets and pushing up prices by as much as 150 percent. NDMA officials say the rain and flooding damaged some 400,000 houses in 15,500 villages.
Government and overseas aid has been slow and patchy, local officials say, lengthening the time it will take to make good damage to infrastructure, property, crops and livestock estimated at 250 billion rupees ($37 million).
Families, hit by repeated disasters, say they are running out of resources to recover.
“Before the torrential rains … which sent water pouring down the hillside and flooding our village, my rice saplings were thirsting for water. Now they are under waist-deep floods,” Qadir, lying on a wooden cot in a makeshift relief camp outside his village, told AlertNet.
“I have been reduced to poverty, my two buffaloes have died, my wife and children have been hungry for days. They have no clothes,” said Qadir, tears trickling down his wrinkled cheeks. “It would have been better to die than to see my family hungry and helpless.”