The authorities in Pakistan warned that exposure and infections could drive the death toll up from 54,000 as the harsh Himalayan winter is looming.
Sunny skies on Tuesday morning allowed Pakistani and US military helicopters to land almost every five minutes in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan’s portion of the divided Kashmir region, bringing tents and other supplies.
Heavy rains on Sunday had grounded many relief flights, and and landslides caused by the 7.6-magnitude earthquake on 8 October cut off many roads.
Pakistani army spokesman Major Farooq Nasir said smaller helicopters would take relief goods, brought by larger helicopters to forward bases in the Neelum and Jhelum valleys, to remote mountain villages.
The UN says more than 80 relief
The United Nations said that more than 80 helicopters were flying and that the world body was planning to send up to 150,000 tents for the homeless, in addition to about 30,000 already distributed.
It said that field hospitals with operating theatres were being set up, improving the survival chances for those requiring urgent surgery, but that the large numbers of patients was overwhelming.
“The need to avoid further loss of life after the original disaster is paramount,” the world body said in a statement.
Aftershocks continued shaking the region, with 41 registered on Monday, including one of 5.1 magnitude, though no further damage was reported, Pakistan’s seismological centre in Peshawar said on Tuesday. There have been 716 aftershocks since the main earthquake.
Relief officials say thousands
In addition to those killed, about 80,000 people were injured in the earthquake and many are in desperate need of medical care.
The United Nations has estimated 3.3 million people were left without homes and need food and shelter ahead of the approaching winter, with snow already falling in some affected areas.
Major General Farooq Ahmed Khan, Pakistan’s top relief official, said 33,000 tents and 130,000 blankets had been distributed to survivors. He said 260,000 tents and 2 million blankets were needed.
Eighty Pakistani soldiers were flown by helicopter into the Neelum Valley, about 25km northeast of Muzaffarabad, to carry emergency rations and other relief supplies on foot to those in need, the army said.
Soldiers also drove mule teams with relief supplies to some of the region’s steep-sided villages, passing on the way people with bundles on their shoulders carefully walking down to lower elevations.
Roads have been cut off due to
Patients with infected wounds and gangrene are languishing in remote areas, Red Cross official Sebastian Nowak said after a team of the group’s doctors landed on Monday in Chekar, 60km east of Muzaffarabad.
In the part of divided Kashmir that India controls, torrential rain and snow hampered relief operations on Monday as roads to the badly hit Uri and Tangdhar areas were cut off from the rest of the region.
In Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, the authorities said the toll from a collapsed apartment block – the city’s only building destroyed in the earthquake – rose to 62 as more bodies were found. Nineteen other people were missing.
The local government of Pakistani-administered Kashmir estimated that at least 40,000 people died there. Officials reported another 13,000 deaths in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, and India said 1360 people died in its portion of Kashmir.
The UN International Labour Organisation warned that more than 1.1 million jobs may have been lost as a result of the earthquake in Pakistan, adding that employment programmes were urgently needed to lift millions of people out of poverty deepened by the disaster.
There were signs of normality returning to Muzaffarabad on Tuesday. Some shops reopened for business, and a military-run telecommunications company set up camps where residents could make telephone calls or send emails and faxes free.