Pakistani heat torments mountain folk from Swat

Thu May 14, 2009 9:49am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Kamran Haider

YAR HUSSAIN CAMP, Pakistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have fled from fighting in the Swat mountain valley only to be subjected to a cruel onslaught from nature on the plain below.

More than 800,000 people have left their homes in the scenic valley of orchards, forests and bubbling streams since government forces began battling Taliban militants there late last month.

Most have sought refuge on the lowlands to the south.

But Pakistan is entering the hottest part of the year when the sun beats down from clear blue skies and lowland temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

"People are living in very harsh conditions under the sun, very hot sun," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters in the Yar Hussain camp, northwest of Islamabad, on Thursday.

He called for massive international help to avert a tragedy.

Families huddled in whatever shade they could find at the camp where lines of tents have been set up on a dusty, treeless field. Children splashed their faces with water from a tank set up by the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF.

"Look at these tents and the place where they are set up," said Maryam Bibim, a 40 year-old mother of four. "Can someone from a cool region live here? There are no fans, no cold water, nothing."   Continued...