Multan - It was a usual evening of mid-September, but it brought something highly unusual with it to the residents of village Manjhiwala in Muzaffargarh district. They inhabited land before sunset and an island just an hour after it.

A 140-feet long and 80-feet deep breach in Bhuttianwala Flood Bank near Muradabad on the evening of September 13 submerged with floodwater over a dozen villages located between the broken flood bank and Taleeri Canal and a vast area, 10 kilometres in radius, turned into a big lake. The floodwater has receded from most of the flooded areas but the lake still exists as this area is surrounded from all sides by flood banks and the water has no exit.

The residents of the area describe it a horrible scene when the flood struck. “We were preparing dinner when we first heard the sounds of gushing water and screaming people. We left everything as-it-is, fled our homes and rushed towards flood bank to save the lives of our children,” recalled Malik Nazar Hussain Khore, a resident of Manjhiwala, while talking to The Nation.

Although the River Chenab has been in high spate in the past, the said area never received any flood and it is for the first time in its history that it got flooded because of alleged negligence of irrigation department and district administration. The flood has forced about 15,000 residents of over a dozen flooded villages to vacate their homes. Over 1,500 houses have so far got demolished in the area and the people are living under open sky on flood banks.

Frustration continues to mount for people in the area. Malik Munir Ahmad Bhutta, a resident of another affected village, Muradabad Head Sharqi, said that not even a single government official has visited the area despite lapse of 13 days. “We are on our own. We haven’t received any aid, food, medicines or tents. Thousands of people are under open sky with their little kids and livestock at the mercy of nature,” he lamented.

The knee-deep flood lake has started causing serious health issues in the area and it is feared that a dengue or malaria fever outbreak can get unleashed from here. The sub-soil water cache is also contaminated due to flood and the affectees especially kids are falling prey to diarrhoea, skin diseases and other ailments.

Muzaffargarh District Coordination Officer (DCO) Shaukat Ali says the recent flood affected 189 villages and about 500,000 people in the district, besides ruining standing crops on thousands of acres of land. “We’ve sent teams to the Manjhiwala and other villages and work is underway for the disposal of water from this area,” he told this scribe.

Meanwhile, Dera Ghazi Khan Commissioner Saqib Aziz declared that rehabilitation operation in Muzaffargarh district was launched and the heads of families from the areas affected by flood by 40 per cent or more would get first instalment of aid worth Rs25,000 per family before Eid.

Despite government claims regarding launching of rehabilitation operation across the country, the tensions were running so high that the residents blocked main roads in Muzaffargarh. "The government could have saved our homes in three or four days with a few pumps and cuts in bank of Taleeri Canal but now that mould is growing and it's getting worse," said Kaloo Khan while shouting slogans against Muzaffargarh administration during a demo. He was of the opinion that the people, who would have had a certain amount of damage, were now going to have twice that much or had their homes uninhabitable because of negligence of administration.

The protesters namely Riaz Hussain, Ahmad Khokhar, Mahmood Khokhar, Abbas, Ashiq Hussain and others alleged that their villages were criminally drowned by the district administration of Muzaffargarh to save the mills of industrialists near Doaba flood bank. “Neither had they issued any flood warning nor allowed us to repair the broken flood bank. Instead, we were baton charged by police when we tried to block water seepage,” they maintained. “We demand a high-level inquiry into this incident. We demand suspension of Muzaffargarh DCO, who kept us in the dark and drowned our homes to protect the mills of the rich,” they said.