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Pakistan floods: residents brace for a second wave of problems

Pakistan floods recede but experts warn of a second wave of heavy rains that could spell disaster for those who already remain cut-off from aid now that many bridges have been washed away.

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Still, according to officers at the airbase, Pakistani troops remain on high alert to foil any potential attacks should the Taliban attempt to take advantage of the situation and launch further attacks in the region that was last wrested from their control in an Army operation last July. Some 30,000 troops, they say, have been committed to rescue and reliefe operations around the country, while the Army continues to hold territory from the Taliban in Western tribal areas.

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On Wednesday, militants killed two civilians active in anti-Taliban militias in the city of Peshawar. “As the police force is busy in rescue and relief work for flood affectees, militants tried to take advantage of the situation to attack Peshawar, but the police force was fully alert and vigilant,” police chief Liaqat Ali Khan said. At checkposts throughout Swat, police are checking residents identity alongside "Most wanted" posters of known Taliban fighters.

For now though, the Pakistan Army remains quietly confident. “We fought off the Taliban and now we will fight the floods,” said one Pakistan Army captain who says he was injured twice by Taliban attacks last year.

No bridges no trade, no aid

Areas along the banks of the River Swat felt the full force of the flash floods and forest and buildings and roads were reduced to rubble. The Pakistan Army swiftly rebuilt two bridges, including historic the Chakdara bridge which was built by British forces in the 19th century, and is overlooked by a hilltop fort known as the “Churchill Picket” where a young Winston Churchill was posted during the 1890s.

The loss of so many bridges is what's hurting local trade for those residents whose farms were left intact from the floods, particularly the trade of peaches, onions, and the tomatoes, which Swat is famous for. “Our goods are now spoiling before they get to the market” says Khalil Rehman, a farmer, as he waits in a long line on the banks of the River Swat to get access to Army-operated rescue boats and carry a small portion of his peaches across the river.

Government officials say that reopening the bridges must be the first priority, followed by much more food aid. “The roads are so important as without them everything else becomes so much harder,” says Feroz Shah, Director General of the National Commission for Human Development, a government department. “Then comes the food aid, the medical aid, and the revival of agriculture, upon which this region depends.”

Asked when the government would begin the rehabilitation work in earnest, Shah said: “Doing the needs assessment and the survey is the easy part. But right now I don’t think we are equipped to manage the situation.”

IN PICTURES: Pakistan floods