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Pakistan - Kulden presser ofrene stadig længere mod syd!

PAKISTAN: Cold brings quake victims south

IRINnews.org, 4. november 2005

Stadig flere husvilde ofre for jordskælvet søger stadig længere sydpå i deres søgen efter husly og arbejde. Antallet af ofre stiger fortsat, og specielt børnene er meget udsatte i takt med at nøden vokser og kulden tiltager.

Families like this, with nothing after the quake, are heading to cities further south, where at least the climate is not so harsh - ©  Kamila Hyat/IRIN
LAHORE, 4 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Outside the home of Muhammad Aurangzeb, a small village seems to have sprung up almost overnight. String cots, tattered mattresses and a bench lie across the tiny courtyard outside the cramped servant's quarter Aurangzeb occupies in a private family home along a residential street in the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province, Lahore. Around 25 people, all distant relatives of Aurangzeb, have taken up temporary residence on the assorted furniture.

While Lahore almost completely escaped the havoc caused by the quake that hit northern parts of the country early in October, killing at least 73,000 people according to the official toll, the aftermath of the calamity can be seen across the city, as displaced people head towards it.

Aurangzeb, 26, from the quake-hit Balakot area in Mansehra, works as a driver in Lahore. He returned ten days ago to his job, bringing with him his elderly parents, after rushing up to Balakot on 8 October - the day the devastating quake struck. "My immediate family was miraculously safe. My parents will stay here with me until my brothers can rebuild our house. But now, many more relatives have also come down, because the weather has turned really cold in Balakot since Saturday and they feared they would freeze to death," Aurangzeb said.

Reports from Balakot area say that, within the last six days, at least five children have died from cold in and around the town alone. The toll could be still higher in the more remote areas north of Balakot, where the last days of October brought with them freezing winds from the surrounding hills.

Local people say the cold has "come earlier than usual", adding greatly to the miseries of the tens of thousands of quake victims still living without shelter.

Aurangzeb's employer, Miraj Khan, a businessman, has allowed quake survivors coming down from Balakot to stay in his house for the time being. But he says, "I am concerned about more arriving. I don't have the heart to turn them away, but we don't have the space to house them either. Already, the water is running short and my wife is not happy about so many persons based on the premises."

The meteorological office in the capital, Islamabad, has reported that the unexpected spell of icy weather is likely to persist in most quake-affected areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, for several more days. Then it is anticipated things will warm up slightly, raising temperatures above the freezing point at night – but only until mid-November at best, when the harsh winter in the north of Pakistan routinely arrives in the mountains.

Across the city of Lahore, with a population of some seven million people including nearly half who have come in to work from outside the metropolis, many other quake victims are streaming to the homes of relatives, or simply to find shelter wherever they can. Lahore's mixed population includes a large number of ethnic Kashmiris as well as migrant workers from the NWFP and many have close family members in affected areas.

"My cousin sent me a message to say he and his family would be coming soon from Muzaffarabad. I have to find a place where they can stay. I myself live in a room shared with three other men," said Muhammad Qayyum, from the devastated town of Bagh, who works as an attendant at a petrol station in the commercial heart of Lahore.

City hospitals are complaining they have been swamped by patients, often accompanied by relatives or friends, from quake-affected areas who are now homeless. "Basically, once a limb has been plastered, there is nothing much we can do for the patient. Ordinarily, they should go home, but these people have nowhere to go," said a doctor at the busy Services Hospital, where quake victims and relatives sit along corridors or on the floors of wards. "We don't have the facilities to accommodate them. Other patients who are seriously ill are suffering," complained a nurse.

The Punjab government has made plans to shift the patients to a camp in the city intended for those going for Haj (the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca). The milder temperatures of Lahore mean most can even sleep outdoors for at least the next month or so. Amina Begum, 44, from Muzaffarabad, who suffered a broken hand, said "Here we can live anywhere. Up there, it is now almost impossible."

In quake-affected area, in some cases even families who have tents are moving down. They complain that the flimsy, cloth tents handed out to them after the earthquake, do nothing to keep out the cold. "The children will die if we stay. We know no one in Lahore, but it has a reputation as a city which is very hospitable," said Ghias Khan, a tailor from Battagram, as he sat at a bus stand carrying his two small children, awaiting workers of the charitable Edhi Foundation who had promised to find him accommodation.

Like many others fleeing the quake zone, he hopes to find work in Lahore and earn enough to keep his family afloat.

Many more displaced people are expected to arrive in the city and other towns in Punjab in coming days. The process of supplying winterised tents to survivors in the quake zone is hampered by logistical and funding problems and as the winter draws closer, more and more people may find they have no choice but to move southwards - just to stay alive.

© 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