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Rescue teams race against Pakistan floods and pirate bandits

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A McClatchy reporter rode aboard the boat as it left the riverbank at Rohri, a small town near Sukkur, where the river was 13 feet deep. The craft had been under way for about an hour before our guide, a local man, pointed to trees sticking out of the water. There he said, was his village, Allah Dhinoo.

As the boat approached, a man's yelling led the boat through a tangle of treetops to a thatched roof. Nearby, two young men waded through the neck-high flood. From just under the roof, inches above the water, a third was carried to the boat, a disabled man who had been suspended on a bed placed on the rafters.

The men refused to leave without a goat, which was loaded onto the boat, along with what appeared to be a fighting cock, two smaller birds in a cage, two trunks of possessions and a cache of shotguns. Left behind on the roof were several dogs that howled pleadingly as the craft departed.

"That's to deal with the bandits," explained 30-year-old Nadir Ali Bhurro, pointing to the shotguns as he climbed aboard, clad in only a loincloth, having first taken care to lock his submerged house. "We have to bring our valuables because the bandits have big boats and they'll take our stuff when we're gone."

The Sindh countryside is notorious for bandits and the area by the river was always a favorite hideout. The outlaws apparently have been taking advantage of the floods by ransacking abandoned homes.

At the next stop, four men and a woman were huddled on a flimsy roof. They'd stacked their belongings in locked trunks atop a brick structure nearby, along with a tall metal cylinder for storing grain.

"We've just been eating rice for the last few days," said Atta Mohammad, 20. "And drinking the river water."

At a third stop, just a few hundred yards away, chickens that had been surviving on a thatched roof were tied up, bundled into a steel trunk, and brought aboard the boat, along with the man who had been minding them.

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