Eight international medical teams took off from Muzaffarabad to outlying villages on Monday, as fears grew for millions of survivors without healthcare and shelter in the isolated mountains of Kashmir.
“There are serious patients with infected wounds and gangrene,” said Sebastian Nouak, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, after a team of its doctors landed in Chekar, 60km east of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan’s side of the divided Himalayan region.
He said about 200 people in the town had not received medical help since the 7.6-magnitude quake struck on 8 October, and landing helicopters there was dangerous because desperate villagers rushed into the landing area.
Two strong aftershocks struck the region early on Monday, including one with a magnitude of 4.5, but there were no immediate reports of damage. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, and experts say they could continue for months.
Estimates of the toll have been
The United Nations has estimated that 2 million people are homeless.
A US diplomat estimated that about one-fifth of populated areas had yet to be reached.
Helicopter missions resumed on Monday after being grounded for most of Sunday because of heavy rain and thunderstorms, which piled on the distress for the homeless across the earthquake zone.
On Sunday, an aid worker with Pakistan’s Sungi Development Foundation was killed when he accidentally walked into a helicopter’s tail rotor while trying to drive away a crowd as it prepared to leave Balakot, state news agency APP reported.
Nouak of the Red Cross said one of its relief flights to Chekar had to turn back at the weekend because villagers were fighting each other for the supplies.
Survivors are desperate for aid,
“They had sticks and they were fighting for relief goods. There was no perimeter security and we felt threatened. There must be a perimeter security while helicopters land,” he said.
Dozens of trucks have rolled into Muzaffarabad over the past day or so, but road access further afield remains difficult.
The Pakistani military said it could take weeks to clear landslides blocking routes to several valleys.
Army spokesman Colonel Rana Sajjad said recent rains had caused a mudslide that blocked a key road that had only just reopened from Muzaffarabad towards Chakothi on the militarised border with India. The army hoped to reopen it again later on Monday.
“We are sending trucks wherever the roads are open. The helicopter sorties all depend on the weather,” Sajjad said.
Rains have caused mudslides,
US diplomat Geoffrey Krassy said about 20% of the populated areas in the quake zone have yet to be reached.
Major-General Farooq Ahmed Khan, the country’s relief commissioner, said 29,000 tents and 118,000 blankets had been distributed.
Khan had earlier said 100,000 tents were needed.
The army said medical supplies such as syringes, painkillers and antibiotics also were needed but asked donors to stop sending fresh water because most affected areas had enough.
In cooperation between two long-time rivals, India gave Pakistan permission to send relief helicopters into the 1.6km-wide no-fly-zone on the Pakistani side of the ceasefire line that divides Kashmir.
Tons of aid is arriving in
India’s Foreign Ministry said its third shipment of aid to Pakistan – about 170 tons of supplies including 100 tons of fortified biscuits – would arrive by train on Monday.
Meanwhile, torrential rain and snow hampered relief operations in earthquake-hit parts of Indian Kashmir for the second day on Monday, as roads to the worst-affected Uri and Tangdhar areas were cut off from the rest of the Himalayan province.
Trucks loaded with relief supplies were stranded on the steep mountainous roads after heavy snow and rain turned roads into rivers of mud.
The road to Tangdhar, buried under 25cm of snow, was closed, cutting off the town from the rest of Jammu-Kashmir state.
Air-dropping of relief supplies to the far reaches had been halted because helicopters could not take off due to bad weather, BB Vyas, divisional commissioner of Jammu-Kashmir, said on Monday.
There are concerns that remote
Quake survivors huddled in rain-sodden tents and lit fires to keep warm as temperatures plummeted.
At least 140,000 people have been left homeless by the earthquake that killed 1361 people in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Vyas said there was a crippling shortage of shelter with only a quarter of the needed supplies of tents available. According to government and aid workers, 20,000 tents are needed there.
Aid volunteers said that rain could hinder their work as it triggered landslides and closed hard-won access to villages gained over the past week.