Flood victim finds safety on ancient mound
AMRI: Pakistani flood victim Achar has taken refuge on what villagers say was the seat of ancient kings.
Floods that began three weeks ago with torrential monsoon rain over the upper Indus river basin have forced more than 4 million people from their homes. Most are living in wretched conditions beside roads, many sleeping in the open with little food and no clean water.
Achar, a gaunt, elderly man, is camped out with his family on a mound in the ancient city of Amri, on the flooded plains of the southern province of Sindh.
He seems content enough on his island.
“There are no shady places on the road and here it’s safe, it’s high up,” said Achar, who has only one name, and is living with his extended family of 16 people.
Tufts of henna-dyed hair, somewhere between orange and red, stuck out from beneath his white skull cap. His cropped beard was the same colour.
Amri, west of the Indus, dates from about 3000 BC.
The Indus basin was believed to have been the cradle of civilization in South Asia and Amri was one of its earliest known settlements, older than Moen Jo Daro, the main city of the Indus civilization and one of Pakistan’s most important archaeological sites. Moen Jo Daro, also in Sindh, has not been flooded.
The sandy soil of Amri’s hillock is littered with shards of pottery the colour of red brick. Larger pieces stuck out of steep, eroded slopes.
Every time there’s heavy rain, more pieces of pottery are washed out of the ground on the hill where kings once lived, villagers said.
“Once it was a city and these pots were common,” Achar said. “Sometimes we find pieces with glaze or patterns on them. It looks very old.”
He said he had never found anything of any value.
On the other side of a nearby road, which has not been cut off by the flood, a small museum surrounded by water houses artefacts from the site.
The deluge is still making its way across Sindh’s flat farmland and stretches of semi-desert. The flood only hit Amri five days ago.
Villagers were warned of the advancing water and Achar said he was able to pack up his possessions and move to the top of the hill where he hacked down some bushes and strung up a large piece of white canvas.
Eight rope beds, pots, pans and bundles of clothes were crammed underneath the awning, along with several women and some children, taking shelter for a blazing midday sun.
Government relief workers had arrived on the road the previous day, across about 300 metres of water, and Achar was able to take a boat to collect supplies of rice, flour, lentils, sugar and tea. For drinking water, he pointed at the flood: “We’re used to it,” he said.
From his lofty camp, Achar pointed out his collapsed mud-walled house. The thatch roofs of villagers’ homes and farm buildings stuck out of the water.
In the other direction, beyond the flooded museum, only the tops of small trees could be seen above the flood until a distant wall of mountains rose, their high ridgeline barely visible in the glare.
Apart from the shards of pottery, there’s no trace of the people who once lived in Amri, which was believed to have been destroyed in a great fire.
Thousands of years later, it’s a great flood that threatens Pakistan’s ancient land and its people. – Reuters
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