Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pakistan's 2010 Ramadan Flood Victims One Year Later

Pakistan floods 2010, Adrees Latif/Reuters

As today is Pakistan Independence Day, marking the creation of Pakistan and Indian as separate nation states at the end of the British Raj on August 14, 1947 at midnight (India celebrates on the other side of midnight, August 15), it seemed a fitting day to post on the  Pakistan floods of 2010, updated to 2011.

Last year the usual patriotic celebrations of flag waving, political speeches, and tributes to national heroes were suspended because of the floods that devastated a major corridor in the country, and rendered the poor, the less poor, and the reasonably well off homeless (11 million). There were deaths (2 million) as a direct result of the flooding but also because of the hardships and the delays and difficulties of distributing aid in such remote and even more isolated areas (another 7 million were affected; damage to infrastructures totalled $10 billion). Sadly, there were also obstacles to relief efforts because of a slow international response on the part of governments, and of people including those in the Pakistani diaspora. There was reluctance to contribute to what some saw as a nation harboring terrorists, and others thought was too corrupt to entrust with aid supplies and money.

Nevertheless, time, nature, aid, and the human spirit have transformed the pictures of last year's devastation into this year's hope and challenges. Reuters photographer Adrees Latif returned to the scenes of his original photographs to capture the change. The result is a series of 8 paired photographs on Reuters' Full Focus that show why he is an award winning photo journalist, including winning the Photographer of the Year International (POYi) for his original "sustained" photography of the Pakistan floods in 2010.

Below is the text from Latif's description of the impetus for his return, and his impressions as he took the new set of photos, followed by the 8 paired photos and their captions.

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Retracing my steps in Pakistan
AUG 2, 2011 16:40 EDT

On August 7, 2010, with a camera in hand, I dropped into a flooded village on an army helicopter that was delivering food aid to marooned villagers. As a crewman slid the door open to find solid ground, I leaped out, took some photographs, and managed to get back on before the chopper departed.

Time stamps on the images show the hover-stop lasted less than the length of an average song. For those three minutes, my thoughts were focused on finding an image that would bring the Pakistan floods story to life.

After getting back to base, I worded the caption, “Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan’s Punjab province August 7, 2010.”

I never got a chance to speak to the villagers in my image. Trapped in the belly of the chopper, I did not even know where we had descended. All I could confirm was that I had leaped onto a graveyard, where the winds from the propellers threw me from one dirt mound to another.

On July 30, 2011, nearly one year later, I found the village and my subjects.

I raced towards the elevated graveyard where I had captured this moment. My heart, in disbelief, started beating faster than it had the first time. Amongst the graves, I sought forgiveness from the dead below, for soiling their resting place with my boots a year ago for the sake of capturing a moment.

As a second source, I pulled out the printed images I carried in my bag to confirm I was in the same exact location and slowly villagers gathered around me and started pointing themselves out. Answers I thought I would never have started to be revealed. The village once again gathered on top of the graveyard that had given them refuge one year earlier.

The idea to revisit the site of my images came to me in Bangkok while covering the red-shirt protests in 2010. Intersections, which were set ablaze one day, would return to normal working condition the next. I felt the only way to remind us of what really happened was to place images of the same exact locations next to each other. As I am based in Pakistan, I transferred the idea to the Pakistan floods story.

To start the before and after series, I went through every single image I shot over a three-week period in 2010 and chose key moments that I would attempt to revisit. Then I printed a wide selection of images around the moments to assist in locating the sites.

For the August 7 before-and-after images, every single image from the original take was printed. Images, including aerials, from other photographers on the helicopter were also printed, to find key markers that could help me locate the villagers.

I knew we had taken off from a helicopter pad in Kot Adu in Muzaffargarh district on August 7, and time stamps proved we were in the air for seven minutes before descending. I used that information to plot a 10-mile radius around the airbase in Google Maps to start my search. Some of the images showed two mosques, key markers near the graveyard as we started descending during the floods. I enlarged certain images to help with the identification process.

On July 30, driving about 10 miles out of Kot Adu, I began stopping every 15 minutes to question locals at roadside stalls. On my third stop, I found a man who said he knew one of the villagers in the photographs. I asked him to come with us to identify the man. Minutes later, only about 500 yards from the main road, I stood facing the cemetery.

To give coherence to the series, all images have been shot using the same lens, at the same focal distance, with the same aperture and shutter speed that the original images were shot with. Only the ISO in the images has been changed, to compensate for differences in exposure.

The handful of extra prints were handed to the villagers as the shoot ended.


A combination photograph shows (top) marooned flood victims, including boy Mohammed Farhan, aged about 12, and Allah Dita, aged about 64, as they look to escape by grabbing onto the side bars of a hovering army helicopter which arrived to the village of Daya Chokha Gharbi to distribute cooked chick peas and rice to flood victims in Kot Adu located in southern Punjab's Muzaffargarh district on August 7, 2010; and (bottom) Farhan and Dita, nearly one year later, pose for a portrait with residents from the same village in the same location, July 29, 2011. "All I was thinking was to save my life. To get out, " said Dita, when asked what he was thinking while holding onto the side bars one year earlier. Dita, who had stayed behind to look after his house and livestock, managed to be pulled up into the helicopter and was reunited with his five children who had left the flooded village a few days earlier. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (Top) Inamullah, 4, sitting on top of furniture and household items recovered in his family courtyard hours after they returned to their home, as floodwaters started receding, in Nowshera, northwest Pakistan, August 1, 2010; and (Bottom) Inamullah, 5, posing for a portrait in the same courtyard almost a year after the Pakistan floods which ravaged one-fifth of the country, July 26, 2011. "I remember the water, it took my toys. I miss them the most," the now five-year-old Inamullah said in Pashto. Ikramullah, the boy's father, said their 25-member family survived by taking refuge on a nearby hilltop from Thursday July 29, 2010 till Sunday August 1, 2010. "He's the most confident amongst his peers. But when it starts to rain, he cries in fear of another flood," his father said. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (top) newborn twins lying between the hand of their grandmother Amir Mai (L) and mother Zahida Perveen in the cabin of a army helicopter, after they were evacuated from their flooded village of Mooza Dogar Klasra in Kot Adu, located in southern Punjab's Muzaffargarh district, August 7, 2010; and (bottom) the same twin boys, Mohammad Usman (L) and Muhammed Ruhman are photographed nearly one year later in the arms of their mother Parveen (C) and next to the hand of their grandmother Mai (L), who posed for this portrait in the courtyard of their home near Kot Adu July 29, 2011. "I was so happy, I was weeping when I saw they were boys," said Perveen, a then 25-year-old mother of three girls, as she lay in a military hospital on August 7, 2010. One year on, the twins' father Javed Iqbal said, "There has been less work after the floods and I have two more mouths to feed," speaking from their home on July 29, 2011. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (top) Ikramullah, 37, as he returned to his pen to find his livestock killed from the 2010 floodwaters in Nowshera, northwest Pakistan, August 1, 2010; and (R) Ikramullah, 38, posing for a portrait in front of the same brick wall, almost a year after the floods ravaged one-fifth of the country, July 26, 2011. "Look at my calloused hands, I have been forced into labor, he said. "Businesses have shut down, there is no work here." Ikramullah and his 25-member family survived by taking refuge on a nearby hilltop from Thursday July 29, 2010 till Sunday August 1, 2010. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (top) residents returning to the town of Nowshera, northwest Pakistan, as flood waters started to recede, August 1, 2010; and (Bottom) a man and boy as they ride a horse-led-cart past the same exact location almost a year after the floods ravaged one-fifth of the country, July 26, 2011. "Donations have not arrived to Nowshera due to corruption. Government officials and NGOs here are all corrupt. Pakistanis have lost love for each other because of money," Umar Durrani, a 24-year-old shopkeeper in the area said. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (top) a family pointing towards partially submerged houses while taking refuge on a hilltop overlooking the flooded town of Nowshera July 31, 2010; and (bottom) the same vantage point nearly a year later July 27, 2011. "Many businesses and shops never reopened. I have less customers because the laborers have disappeared," said Wazir Zada, 47, who has been running the same tea shop for 35 years. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (top) Kareen Bkhush, aged about 75, as he stood over his sons as they tried to salvage their wheat and food supplies from a flooded storage facility in Khan Ghar, located in southern Punjab's Muzaffargarh district August 13, 2010; and (bottom) Bkhush poses for a portrait in the same location one year later July 30, 2011. "I have not seen such flooding in my lifetime. The water came and it took everything," said Bkhush, a father of ten. "I had to sell my daughters' jewelry to survive," he said. Khalid, one of Bkhush's four sons said, "Our father fears another flood. He has become weak since." The Bkhush family members survived. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A combination photograph shows (top) marooned flood victims in the village of Daya Chokha Gharbi reaching for food supplies thrown down from an Army helicopter near Kot Adu in southern Punjab's Muzaffargarh district on August 7, 2010; and (bottom) a posed portrait of residents from the same village raising their hands in the air and yelling the traditional Islamic cheer, "Allah u Akbar," or "God is Great," in the same location nearly one year later, July 29, 2011. "I never imagined such a flood. I was trapped in the cemetery for 48 hours before the Army helicopter arrived with food. There was chaos and the villagers were disorderly while vying for rations. Rice packets were falling to the ground and bursting. I stood there and watched in disbelief. I couldn't imagine something like this ever happening." said Nadir Khan, the 34-year-old farmer standing on the right in each image. Khan, seen in the image on the left with his hands on his head, said only one villager died. REUTERS/Adrees Latif's The Big Picture also revisited affected areas of Pakistan as the monsoon season approaches again this year. They included some of Adrees Latif's paired photos, as well as new photos by other photographers. A selection of their photos follows, and the full collection can be seen here.

One-year-old Muskan sleeps in a hammock over cooking utensils inside her family's refugee tent set up along a roadside in Jamshoro, in Sindh province, on July 31. More than 800,000 families remain without permanent shelter a year after floods devastated Pakistan, according to the aid group Oxfam, and more than a million people need food assistance. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

Workers build a bridge a year after floodwaters swept away a previous one in the village of Ghaz Ghat, near Muzaffargarh. Monsoon rains caused the worst disaster ever in the nation, which was founded in 1947. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Students study in a religious class at a mosque in the outskirts of Islamabad on Aug. 1, the first day of Ramadan for Pakistanis. (Faisal Mahmood/Reuters)

Mumtaz Bib, with her 3-year-old daughter Michal, sorts through bricks as her home is rebuilt after being destroyed in last summer's floods near the village of Baseera, Pakistan. For many, the impact of the disaster will continue to be felt for years to come. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Sabi Bibi, 90, digs out a foundation for a new house in Khairpur Nathan Shah in Sindh province on July 29. The town was devastated by the 2010 floods. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

A boy travels with his family's goat, dyed in henna, and belongings while seeking higher ground in Sukkur in Sindh province on July 27. Although this year's monsoon is not expected to approach last year's levels, large swaths of the nation remain particularly vulnerable because recovery has been so slow. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

Zarina Iqbal, 20, with her 1-year-old daughter Akhsa, settles in for the evening at their half-built home. Floodwaters destroyed much of their village of Basti Jagwala Shoki, near Muzaffargarh, last summer. Most residents of Basti Jagwala Shoki must rebuild their homes from scratch, in stages. They use a combination of the debris left by the receding waters and new materials. The residents have not had any assistance and are having to use what meager savings they make on a monthly basis to build their homes. Many residents make an average of $3 a day. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Zahida Parveen feeds her twin boys, Muhammad Usman and Muhammad Uman, as she takes refuge with her husband, Javed, and daughters Fiza, 7, Humera, 8, in the home of Javed's father in Kot Addu, Pakistan. The story of the boys' birth is one of great peril. Their mother took refuge in her father-in-law's home as she began going into labor. As floodwaters began swamping the land around that home, she began to experience problems giving birth. A Pakistani army helicopter was rushed to the scene and as it was circling to find a safe place to land, she gave birth to Uman. As it landed, Usman was born. Mrs. Parveen was carried on a charpai, or makeshift bed, through floodwaters to the helicopter, which rushed her to a military hospital. "The floods, were devastating, we lost an acre of cotton crops, and it destroyed our home, but the floods also bought happiness for me with the birth of my first twin boys,'' she said. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A father picks up his 3-month-old daughter at a refugee camp in Mor Jangi near Taunsa Sharif, in central Pakistan. Residents of this Pakistani village whose lives were washed away by last year's floods complain they have been largely forgotten. Some are still living in tents and others have had to sell their cattle and take on significant debt to rebuild their homes. (Anjum Naveed/Associated Press)

Laborers help transport a truck full of fresh dates to Sukkur in Pakistan's Sindh province on July 26. Food shortages remain a year after floods devastated much of Pakistan, which is a key US ally in the Afghan war. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

Pakistani fisherman make their way to fish along the shore in Karachi, July 27, 2011. (Shakil Adil/Associated Press)

A man plays with his sibling at a camp for flood victims in Nowshera, northwest Pakistan, July 27, 2011. Pakistan remains woefully unprepared for floods this year which a U.N. official said could affect up to 5 million people in a worse-case scenario. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts:
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Life in the time of the cholera?
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Parts II, III, and IV: The Floods and Sociobiology; The Response; Katrina 5 Years On
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Part V--Not sure what to do with your zakat?

An Afghan refugee living in Pakistan arranges bricks at her tent in Nowshera, July 26, 2011. (A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

A boy tries to control his calf at a camp for flood victims in Charsadda, in north west Pakistan, July 25, 2011. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

Zeenat Bibi, 75, displaced by floods for nearly a year, bows in prayer outside her tent in Charsadda, in north west Pakistan, July 25, 2011. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

1 comment:

abu abdullah said...

Subhanallah, Heart wrenching photos.
I really hate to see how sometimes we muslims in well off places like the Gulf splurge in Iftar Banquets wasting too much food.

This year again Somalia has a sever drought, and for many somalians Ramadhan is nothing different from any other month.

BTW to alleviate this i believe that if at all Muslims properly managed distribution of their 2.5% Zakat, we could alleviate the suffering of millions.


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