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Pakistan - Redningsarbejde efter jordskælv vanskeliggøres af dårligt vejr

PAKISTAN: Race against time to save lives

IRINnews.org, 13. oktober 2005

Mens antallet af omkomne nu overstiger 30.000 gør dårligt vejr og lave temperaturer det svært for redningsarbejdere at redde flere af de indespærrede, der fortsat måtte være i live blandt murbrokker fra sammenstyrtede bygninger.

Removing the dead from Saturday's regional earthquake - Muzaffarabad - ©  IRIN
BISHAM, 13 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - The first vehicles carrying tents and the first convoys of rescue workers including Pakistani troops, who arrived in the devastated town of Bisham late on Wednesday, were met with a mixture of anger and relief.

Bisham, in the picturesque Kaghan Valley, some 250 km north of the capital Islamabad, stands at the entrance to the towering, rocky Karakorums mountain range. Each year, hundreds of tourists pass through the sleepy town on their way to Kaghan and Gilgit, further north.

In Saturday’s earthquake, that has killed more than 30,000 people and left an estimated 2.5 million homeless, the town, and settlements scattered around it in the Allai and Kaghan areas, suffered the worst calamity in living memory.

In the wider Mansehra area within which Bisham lies, at least 5,000 people are now known to have died. The death toll could rise, as villages and towns in the remote areas beyond Bisham are slowly accessed by rescue teams.

Some have been completely flattened, the only sign of life being clouds of flies buzzing over piles of rubble and the bodies beneath.

But for the survivors, still greater danger lies ahead. Impending winter, with the first snows routinely falling by November, would make the area completely inaccessible, and of course make survival all the more difficult for quake victims who have no shelter, no warm clothing and no blankets.

Rescue efforts in places like Bisham and in hundreds of communities like it dotted across northern Pakistan, are a desperate race against time – with aid workers aware that heavy snow would make their task almost impossible.

Meanwhile, people in Bisham, too terrorised to return to the buildings that stand, do what they can to stay alive. “We ate raw rice last night, from one of the sacks thrown out to us from a helicopter. People here shared out the raw grains. We had no means to cook it,” said Gul Nazir, 50.

He is still not certain how many family members he lost in the calamity, as news of the fate of two married daughters, living in nearby villages, has still to come. “The roads there are still blocked. I do not know if they and my sons-in-law and grandchildren are alive or dead,” he told IRIN.

Nazir’s wife, Shahzadi Begum, suffered fractures to both legs and a son nurses a broken arm. The broken limbs have been roughly splinted with broken boards, but Nazir demands “They must send female doctors here to attend to the women. The women here refuse to be treated by men, even when we, their husbands, attempt to persuade them to do so.”

Agencies in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and other cities have already made an urgent appeal for female medical staff to rush to the conservative region, where thousands of injured women remain unattended to. In the deeply traditional societies to which they belong, male doctors are not permitted to treat them, even in the kind of situation which has hit the area after the quake.

Apart from the lack of medical care, with army personnel offering only some basic first aid, there is an acute shortage of food, drinking water and especially shelter. Children, spending freezing nights clad in the flimsy clothes they wore the day the quake struck, are falling victim to hypothermia, starvation and dehydration.

“My baby nearly froze to death last night. I and my neighbour, Hazoora, stayed up all night rubbing his legs, and trying to hold him against our skins, so she would not die,” said Zafran Bibi, the mother of a ten-month-old son.

“We are trying to move up tents and water supplies, but it is not easy. Supplies of tents have run out in Pakistan,” Andrew Macleod of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team said. The team is also increasingly concerned about the risk of epidemics, due to poor sanitation conditions and severe water shortages.

People in the area have no doubt help needs to come before winter sets in. “For five nights, women and children and the old alike survived without even a sheet over their heads. I think the government wants us all to die here, of starvation, frostbite and disease,” said Hakim Khan, 40, a carpenter.

Both Hakim’s children, Khadija, 10, and Gul Jan, 6, are sick – with little Gul Jan’s hacking cough and raspy chest threatening to turn into pneumonia.

The provincial government says it is aware of the need to move quickly to save lives. “There are so many places where no real aid has got to yet. Up in Kaghan and Allai, no aid has yet been able to reach people. We know how bad things are in Bisham, but hopefully, as the army moves in, things will improve,” Badshah Gul Wazir, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Home Secretary, who has been touring stricken areas, told IRIN.

The military has no permanent presence in the Mansehra area – one of the worst hit regions in the calamity. A division has been moved in from the Punjab city of Gujranwala to organise relief efforts and set up its headquarters in the area Wednesday. Troops are now being deployed every few kilometres and coordination efforts, aimed at ensuring relief goods are delivered where they are most needed, are now under way after five days.

But people in Bisham say they desperately need more help. With almost no safe structures remaining, winterised tents are a priority, people in the area warn that already, time is fast running out for them. “Things are improving. There are now at least some aid workers, military personnel and doctors here. But the children and women are suffering greatly due to the cold. People must remember it will get colder here by the day, and when the snows fall, no work will be possible,” Abdullah Khan, a rights activist in the area, said.

Other groups, active in relief work have already started to set up camps further south, in towns such as Abbotabad, to which quake victims can be shifted, at least until winter ends and work to rehabilitate and re-house the estimated 2.5 million affected persons can begin.

“We know there is a need for haste. We are planning what to do,” said military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan.

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]


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Opdateret d. 9.1.2006