Fields of deep water surround the dark, imposing frame of Charsadda’s former paper mill. Powered by a water channel fed from the nearby Kabul River, the once mighty factory in this flat, green terrain of sugarcane, wheat and tobacco fields was formerly one of the town’s main industries. The Flying Craft Mill has long since closed and it has been years since the last workers headed across the road from its sleeping quarters to clock-in each morning. Only a couple of chowkidar’s have stayed on, keeping watch over the deserted premises. Broken wooden furniture from the seventies clutters the hostel’s fifty bedrooms now stained by the rain that seeps in from the roof. Mould has taken over.
With the surrounding landscape now devastated by Pakistan’s worst ever floods after the swollen rivers burst their banks following days of incessant monsoon rains, the paper mill has become an island in a sea of destruction. When the deluge came suddenly in the dead of night, the deep waters took with them everything in their path. Thick layers of stinking mud now cover whole villages; protruding timbers now the only sign of the thousands of homes that have for the most part disappeared.
For one hundred and fifty families from the small adjoining villages of Majogee and Faqirabad, the paper mill has become a place of refuge and a sign of despair. Crowded into the damp, dark rooms where the rains still fall inside, those who found shelter there have nothing left of their lives.
Drinking brown water from rusting taps in broken bathrooms, sickness has spread fast among the homeless population who sleep side by side on the wet floors. There is hunger and fever. Help never seems to arrive. From Afghan refugees, to families who have been displaced again and again after running from the Taliban’s battlefields, to women and children now holed-up in cupboards, behind each door along the corridors of the mill there are tales of suffering. These are just some of the people’s stories.