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Quake Victims In Pakistan's Baluchistan Province Desperate For Help


Collapsed houses near Wam, one of the villages surrounding the town of Ziarat

Collapsed houses near Wam, one of the villages surrounding the town of Ziarat

Tens of thousands of people spent a frigid night outside in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, huddling around bonfires and trying to keep warm after a deadly earthquake.

In the province's hilly Ziarat district, the epicenter of the 6.4-magnitude quake, thousands of homes were destroyed or severely damaged. With more than 20 aftershocks since then, many of those whose homes withstood the force of the quake were too scared to sleep indoors. The weather is cold and tents are scarce.

With the dawn, the extent of human suffering became apparent. Authorities now say the bodies of more than 200 peoples have been recovered. Hundreds more have been injured, and there are fears that many more bodies are still buried in the rubble.

Pakistan's army has sent helicopters, paramilitary troops, and a medical team to the affected areas. The paramilitary troops have joined the search for survivors and bodies of victims. The International Committee of the Red Cross also has sent two teams of relief workers.

At least 12,000 people were made homeless on October 29 when the quake flattened more than 1,500 mud-walled homes and triggered landslides that blocked mountain roads in the region, about 60 kilometers northeast of the provincial capital, Quetta.

Relief workers have been loading goods onto transport planes in Islamabad and Karachi for shipment into devastated areas. Pakistan's air force says two of its C-130 transport planes had taken supplies into the region earlier on October 30, including 2,000 tents, 5,000 blankets, and 4,000 sleeping mats.

More Supplies Needed

But aid workers close to the epicenter of the quake say those shipments are not sufficient to help all of those in desperate need, and many survivors say they have yet to see the help they need.

"In my opinion, the people urgently need tents for shelter. The temperatures are below freezing and it is very cold. So people also need blankets as they are reluctant to go inside their houses, fearing that they might collapse, and are staying out in open," said Mohammad Azam Kakar, an aid worker for the UN Development Program in Baluchistan, who's from the Ziarat district.

"They need immediate food aid. Milk is needed for the children. Medicines -- emergency medicines -- are needed in particular," Kakar added.

Kakar said that the true extent of the damage across the region is not yet fully clear because information from some remote villages is difficult to establish. But he says he has learned from his own travels in the area since the quake that there has been major damage to infrastructure.

Pakistan is no stranger to natural disasters. In October 2005, some 73,000 people were killed when a 7.6-magnitude quake struck the country's northern mountains.

In fact, northern Pakistan continued to experience almost daily aftershocks for months -- complicating efforts to bring relief to survivors before winter weather forced the closure of mountain roads and made helicopter flights difficult.

Critics say delays in coordinating and delivering aid to the remote mountains in the north caused the death toll from the 2005 quake to be much higher than it would have been if relief efforts had been better organized.

The 2005 disaster showed that, just as in Baluchistan today, food, emergency shelter, and medicine are the most desperately needed supplies immediately after a major earthquake.

But it also showed that damage to infrastructure can create long-term problems -- including the need for better water sanitation, education for villages where schools were destroyed, repair of telecommunications infrastructure, and permanent housing for thousands of internally displaced people.

with agency reports
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