Pakistan

Pakistan: Homeless and hungry attack aid convoys

MUZAFFARGARH: Riots erupted at several flood-affected places on Friday when starving people attacked vehicles carrying relief goods, forcing the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to suspend their work.

Sadar police officials told Dawn that the authorities were informed by PPAF and IOM officials that their convoy carrying relief goods had been attacked and vehicles looted near Jadeywala on the Mahmood Kot Road.

PPAF coordinator Mohammad Kamran said the organisation had suspended its relief operation after the attack. Similar attacks were reported on vehicles of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) and IOM.

Mr Kamran said the situation had turned dangerous because of widespread hunger and thirst.

"Police used batons to disperse an angry mob of flood-stricken people and recovered looted goods," Malik Asif of Jadeywala said.

He said people had been without food and water for four days and meals sent by the district government were not enough.

He said he stood in a queue on Thursday for two hours but could not get anything.

He said in most cases all people from a family tried to collect relief goods which made the situation worse.

Five people were detained by Sadar police for 'stealing' goods from relief vehicles. One of them said he had been forced to do so because he had nothing to eat. He said the detained people belonged to well-off families but the floods had rendered them homeless and now they were being dubbed thieves. Police freed them after some time.

Up to 2.5 million people have been affected in Muzaffargarh district.

Meanwhile, water gushing out of breaches from the Muzaffargarh canal near Nusrat Wala and Mahmood Kot is heading towards Jatoi and Alipur after inundating areas of Khan Garh, Shah Jamal, Mubarak Pur and Shah Garh.

Suburbs of Alipur town have been evacuated.

The Nusrat Wala breach is now 500 feet wide, but the irrigation department is not doing anything to plug it because all officials and agencies are busy in efforts to save Muzaffargarh town. Water from the breach has moved about 65km over the past week.

According to official estimates, the breach has destroyed 109 villages and cotton and sugarcane crops over thousands of acres.

District Officer (agriculture) Jamshed Sandhu said officials were busy saving urban areas and losses would be assessed after the water receded.

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