Quake survivors endure crippling cold in the open

Published October 28, 2015
'Thousands of people spent the night under the open sky.'—
'Thousands of people spent the night under the open sky.'—

PESHAWAR: As civil and military leaders toured northern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday to assess the destruction caused by the deadly earthquake and to assure the affected people of prompt help, traumatised survivors complained that they were coping with crippling cold in the open without tents and assistance.

A day after the 8.1 magnitude earthquake left at least 238 people dead and 1,618 wounded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata alone, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan separately visited Shangla, Peshawar and Swat.

While the prime minister told PML-N councillors in Shangla — the district which suffered the highest casualty toll — that a relief package was on the anvil, Imran Khan said the KP government would help the affected people and rebuild their damaged homes. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak accompanied the PTI chief.

Also read: A big chill sweeps across the country

Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Hidayat Rehman also flew to Chitral, Dir, Mingora and Bajaur Agency to oversee relief activities. “The army is trying to reach out to every affected person,” he told reporters in Mingora, the headquarters of Swat district.

But the assurances failed to allay concerns of the people devastated by the tremor. The VIP visits added to the misery of the traumatised people as roads in Shangla, Lower Dir and Swat were blocked to facilitate the leaders’ movement.

“The magnitude of the devastation in remote valleys of Upper Dir is colossal. Thousands of people spent the night under the open sky,” Sirajuddin, a TV reporter, said over phone.

“We have not seen any official of the district administration. Survivors immediately need tents to protect them from harsh weather,” he said. Rescue teams of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) or any other organisation have yet to reach Waray valley.

He said the terrified residents were not ready to enter their partially damaged houses and women and children spent the night in the open air. The affected people in remote areas of Kohistan, Upper Dir, Chitral, Shangla and Lower Dir are desperately waiting for the start of relief operations by disaster management agencies.

The federal and provincial governments have yet to respond to a large number of distress calls from far-flung regions. The KP government has engaged one helicopter to ferry relief goods to such areas.

People are without tents and electricity and the injured are being referred to Peshawar for treatment because district hospitals have neither the equipment nor trained manpower. People complained about lack of health facilities in the affected areas.

Karimullah, a resident of Lower Dir, brought his wounded mother to Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in Peshawar. “Hospitals in our hometown are without doctors, medicines and equipment. I had to pay Rs10,000 to a private ambulance for bringing my mother to Peshawar.”

He said his mother had her right thigh broken and was crying in pain all the way to Peshawar.

Several critically wounded people were brought to the LRH’s emergency response centre.

“The government did not provide ambulance service to evacuate critically injured people,” complained Rehan, who brought his injured son from Kohistan district.

On the contrary, senior officials claimed that relief efforts had been expedited and the government had adequate resources to cope with the disaster.

Chief Secretary Amjad Ali Khan told Dawn that the KP government had sufficient stock of relief items, including tents, and the Punjab government had also offered assistance. “We have enough funds and relief items in warehouses and the government will compensate all affected people for their loss.”

According to the PDMA, 3,952 houses were damaged by the tremor. In Chitral, which was badly hit, 1486 houses were damaged. It said that 49 people were killed in Shangla, 32 in Chitral, 34 in Swat, 23 in Lower Dir, 16 in Upper Dir, 15 in Tor Ghar, 11 in Kohistan and nine in Buner.

The KP government claimed that all resources had been mobilised to assist the affected people in far-flung areas of Malakand division, which suffered the most.

Special assistant to the chief minister, Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, told reporters that the PDMA had Rs1.2 billion for relief activities and Rs544 million had been provided to the administrations in the affected districts.

“The government can also divert funds from its annual development programme for relief activities, if needed,” he said, adding that there was no shortage of funds. PDMA teams had been dispatched to all affected areas and people were getting relief items, including tents, on the spot, he claimed.

Mr Ghani said that 2,000 tents, 2,000 blankets, 2,000 mattresses and 1,000 food packets had been distributed among people. The injured are being treated in the nearest hospitals.

He said the PDMA and the National Disaster Management Authority were coordinating with each other and some local, as well as foreign NGOs, were also taking part in relief operations.

The provincial government, he said, had engaged an MI-17 helicopter in relief operation.

The Inter Services Public Relations said in a statement that the army had distributed 12,000 ready-to-eat packets, 1,000 bags of food ration, 1,250 tents and 500 blankets. Forty-four distribution centres have been set up in affected areas.

Army engineers had rehabilitated a number of roads, the statement said.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2015

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