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Pakistan floods: The poor paying the price of unprecedented destruction

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By Salvatore Cernuzio

“There is water everywhere… dams, roads, houses, infrastructure; everything destroyed.”

Cardinal Joseph Coutts speaks of his Pakistan, brought to its knees after two months of raging floods that have so far caused about 1,130 deaths. More than 380 of the victims, according to the latest figures, are children.

A natural catastrophe

Speaking to Vatican News while in Rome for the Pope’s meeting with the world’s cardinals on the Reform of the Curia, Cardinal Coutts reflected on the natural disaster that has befallen his country, where monsoon rains and floods have affected 33 million Pakistanis and damaged more than a million homes. “They are the ones in the villages,” says Coutts with a bitter smile: “As always, it is the poor who pay the price.

From the mountains to the sea

The Cardinal does not point a finger at anyone noting that “Always during the rainy season, it starts to pour in the country. But now it has been raining regularly almost every day for two months without interruption.”

“We have not had so much rain as this in the past 30 years,” Coutts says, going on to say that  “Pakistan is a big country, about 1500-1600 km in length” and that “in the north, there are very high mountains, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world.”

The rain has reached those mountains, he explains, and the water has flooded all the way down to the sea, flowing over some 1,700 kilometers with incredible force and causing “unprecedented destruction.”

Government, army and Caritas on the front lines

Cardinal Coutts recalls the floods of August 2010, which inundated almost a fifth of the entire nation. “France, Italy, Germany, everyone has helped,” he says, “But the situation now is much worse.”

Poor people, he adds, always bear the brunt of the disaster:  “They have houses with weak structures, and the mud and the water destroy everything and are very dangerous.”

The government, the army and Caritas Pakistan immediately sprang into action, the cardinal says, but the emergency is enormous and “material aid such as clothes and food that does not spoil is urgently needed, for example, grain and oil.”

The Pope’s support

Cardinal Coutts describes Pope Francis’ words during the Angelus last Sunday as a consolation:

“I want to assure the people of Pakistan affected by floods of disastrous proportions of my closeness. I pray for the many victims, the injured and the displaced, and that international solidarity may be ready and generous.”

“The Holy Father is informed of everything,” the Cardinal says, “at the meeting in the New Synod Hall, we greeted each other and I said, ‘Pakistan!’ And he said: ‘Ah, Pakistan. How are you doing now?’ When I go back, I will tell everyone that the Pope is close to us.”

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