Homeless Pakistan quake survivors face cold weather

Many survivors made homeless by Monday's earthquake face third night outdoors in extremely cold weather.

    Earthquake survivors in Pakistan await relief aid as some communities were cut off due to blocked roads [Kamal Hyder/Al Jazeera]
    Earthquake survivors in Pakistan await relief aid as some communities were cut off due to blocked roads [Kamal Hyder/Al Jazeera]

    Pakistani rescue teams have reached most of the communities in the mountain regions hit by a major earthquake, as many survivors made homeless by the quake faced a third night outdoors in cold weather.

    Rugged terrain, severed communication lines and an unstable security situation impeded relief efforts since Monday's 7.5-magnitude quake ripped through the South Asia region, killing more than 300 people.

    It took rescuers more than 40 hours to reach survivors as landslides caused by the tremors blocked roads in some areas, officials in the Pakistani capital Islamabad said. 

    "Almost all roads have been made passable now," said General Hidayatur Rehman, military commander for the worst-hit region in the northwest near the Afghan border. "We will try to reach all survivors."

    However, a quake victim in Shangla, one of the worst-hit districts of Pakistan's northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told Al Jazeera that their situation was getting worse due to the extreme cold and lack of relief aid.  

    "We are still waiting for food, blankets and other necessary things for us to survive. It is extremely cold and it's been raining," Wahab Hayat told Al Jazeera. 

    "We are in dire need of help. The earthquake is not over for us yet. It shook our world."

    Bad weather

    According to a statement by UNICEF, heavy rain and snow have been pounding the remote, mountainous areas affected by the quake for the past two days.

    "We are extremely concerned for the safety and wellbeing of children, who are already the most at risk in any disaster and are now in danger of succumbing to the elements as temperatures plummet," Karin Hulshof, UNICEF's regional director for South Asia, said.  

    In the statement, UNICEF is warning that "health, nutrition, hygiene and education services will now be under exceptional stress, placing more children at risk".

    The military has been leading Pakistan's rescue efforts, sending in medical teams, tents and rations and evacuating some people by helicopter.

    "Initial assessments suggested that shelter and hygiene would be most likely the main needs, as it was already snowing in some of the more mountainous areas," said Shelagh Woods, country representative for medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Pakistan.

    National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Major General Asghar Nawaz said the threat of landslides still loomed over the mountainous areas due to large-scale movement of glaciers and rock formations.

    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit the worst-hit areas again on Wednesday to oversee relief efforts, his office said.

    - Additional reporting by Shereena Qazi. Follow her on Twitter: @ShereenaQazi

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And AFP


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