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Epic Pakistan flooding called worst ‘in living memory’

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–Unprecedented flooding in an area of Pakistan where people already struggle with great tragedy and hardship has prompted a Southern Baptist disaster relief response.

As many as 1,600 people are reported dead and another 14 million have been affected, the United Nations is reporting. As the heavy rains continue to fall, devastation and despair once again seem to have taken hold among the peoples of Pakistan. Stranded by floodwaters, many are grieving loved ones who have died while worrying about how they will care for their living.

Roads are blocked, and bridges destroyed. Landslides continue to threaten homes. In at least one area, residents do not expect electricity to return for weeks, according to reports out of the area. Cooking oil is scarce. Diesel for trucks and generators is gone, and hope that a new supply will arrive anytime soon is slim.

“The KKH (Karakoram Highway) is reported to be closed for six weeks,” one international Christian said. “This is major! All supplies come up this road. The flooding affected several thousands of people; the KKH being blocked affects over 1 million — the entire area, every family…. Diesel, gas cylinders, food, phone recharge cards, everything is limited and running out. The military is bringing in [flour], but it disappears quickly.”

This year’s monsoon rains, which began July 22, have been vicious, relief officials said.

“The floods are the worst in Pakistan’s living memory,” according to an Aug. 8 report of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“These are unprecedented floods in a country whose people can ill afford more tragedy and hardship in their lives. Many of those affected by the flooding are still reeling from Taliban fighting in their areas,” said Francis Horton, who with his wife, Angie, directs work in Central and South Asia for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.

Of the 14 million who’ve been affected, at least 1.4 million of them are children, according to an Aug. 9 U.N. report. About 1.8 million of those 14 million are homeless.

“Needs are higher than those that followed the 2005 earthquake, and far more widespread across the country,” the report said. “Shelter is the most urgent need, while food, water, and health care are also crucial.”

The Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake that rocked northern Pakistan destroyed whole villages. Government officials said the 7.6-magnitude quake killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3 million homeless.

Pakistan has a population of 177 million, according to the U.S. State Department. The United Nations World Food Program estimated in an Aug. 10 report that as many as 6 million Pakistanis will require assistance in obtaining food during the weeks and months ahead because of the current flooding.

Southern Baptists gave generously at the time of the 2005 earthquake, helping to rebuild homes and livelihoods. Their giving again is blessing the people of Pakistan, Horton said. More than $80,000 in emergency funds has been released for Pakistan and $10,000 has been allocated to help flood victims in neighboring India.

“BGR is partnering with local and international partners to put world hunger funds to work from the north to the south in [Pakistan],” Horton said. “This is an incredible opportunity for the church of Pakistan to rise and help those affected and show God’s love to them.”

Pakistan’s population is 95 percent Muslim, and those the floodwaters have ravaged have little direct knowledge of Christians. Pakistani Christians, with the aid of Southern Baptist partners and Southern Baptist funds, are doing all they can to help those in need and bring true hope to hurting flood survivors in Pakistan.

“One team is doing search and rescue in one of the landslide areas. They have found dozens of bodies,” a Southern Baptist relief worker said. “I asked if they were worn out from all this difficult work, but [they] insist that they have great joy in their work and they are eager to continue to help.”

In another area, Pakistani Christians found a man unconscious but alive in the bushes along a riverbank.

“They rescued him and took him back to a shelter and prayed over him,” the relief worker said. “When he regained consciousness, he told of a man appearing to him telling him that he was going to save him. [They] shared with him that this was Isa (Jesus) and He can save him.

“This old man was the only male with the family, and his return brought the ladies and children great joy,” the relief worker said. “The entire family was shared with and has responded positively.”

In addition to providing transportation costs for rescuers and evacuations, Southern Baptist funds have purchased tents for temporary shelters, hot meals, and food staples. Pakistani Christians are distributing rice, flour, lentils, chickpeas, sugar, tea, condensed milk, and matches.

“Projects being funded by Southern Baptists stretch from the north to the south. Feeding is taking place everywhere, as well as some provision of temporary shelter,” Horton said. “Pakistani people all along the Indus River are being helped by Southern Baptists’ funds. Thousands of people are being fed.”
Marlene Martin is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response. Baptist Global Response is located on the Internet at www.gobgr.org.

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  • Marlene Martin