I have been to Swat Valley before, it is one of the most beautiful areas of Pakistan.
Indeed, it is called the Switzerland of Pakistanfamous for its clear river, majestic mountains and delicious peaches and plums.
The Swat Valley is a tourist destination packed with hotels and restaurants – or rather it is.
Even as we entered the valley, we passed mudslides that closed part of the main motorway into the area, and we could see Swat’s floodplain glistening in the distance.
Restaurants and guest houses that are more than 30ft above the water surface are normally buried or even washed away.
The remaining businesses were frozen in foot-thick puddles of mud.
Everywhere in the lower part of the valley, people are trying to clean up what is left.
A garage owner showed me his business, located off the river.
“It was filled with water all the way to the roof,” he told me. “Now we’re clearing the mud and trying to fix the cars that were left inside.”
Ruined buildings reappeared after the tornado
He, like many others, moved away from the most endangered areas when word spread that floodwaters were rising even further upstream.
Going north, we saw men on homemade rafts fighting the currents.
They rowed to higher ground, carrying whatever they could get.
The water of the Swat River, once clear, is now a dirty gray.
We watched as people crossed the river at the lowest and safest points, collecting their precious finds, and the boys running along the newly formed riverbank.
I was surprised that the land in front of them had been washed away.
Others carrying their possessions along the riverbank in wheelbarrows past battered buildings reappeared after the tornado engulfed them to the roofs of their homes.
Local man ‘hasn’t seen this level of flooding before, not even 2010’
We observed a lone truck with a large USAID logo on the side heading toward the river and dumping the mud they had cleared from flooded homes and businesses back into the river.
Also follow a group of men who can stay underwater for a week.
Now they come to the waterfront just to stare and think about what has happened to this popular tourist destination and their livelihood.
“There were floods in 2010, but not as bad as this,” one of them told me. The crowd began to gather in agreement.
Another man added: “We have never seen this level of flooding before, not even in 2010.
The Pakistani government blames climate change, and people here agree that the weather is unusual, and things have changed for a while.
“It is very, very different,” said a young man.
Pointing to an older friend, he added: “Compared to before, the climate is changing, but he’s older, ask him…”
The older man nodded and gestured in agreement.
“This is the second time the floods have come, but this one is much more dangerous, it destroys everything, we have had floods before but never like this.”
There’s nothing unusual about monsoon rains in Pakistan, but this time they’ve been life-changing and deadly – and the season isn’t over yet.
I asked the men if a repeat of the heavy rains in the mountains could cause further tragedy for them and for the country.
All nodded, with one replying simply: “We’re scared.”