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Pakistan Races To Help Quake Victims Before Winter Sets In

  • RFE/RL

Pakistani authorities are racing to send relief supplies, including blankets, tents, food, and pneumonia vaccine to earthquake victims before winter weather sets in.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department has predicted snowfall in quake-hit areas starting November 1, with several feet of snow likely to accumulate within a few weeks.

"The bad weather can delay the relief activities," said Asghar Nawaz, the director-general at the National Disaster Management Authority said in Islamabad October 30. He said they are using trucks, eight helicopters, and a military plane and troops to provide aid across the areas hit.

With thousands of earthquake survivors including children facing a harsh Himalayan winter under open skies, authorities were also rushing medics and pneumonia vaccine to worst-hit areas to forestall illness.

Nawaz addressed the press after visiting towns and villages in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that have been worst affected by a magnitude-7.5 earthquake on October 26.

The quake was centered in neighboring Afghanistan's Badakhshan province that borders Pakistan, Tajikistan, and China — but caused extensive damage in Pakistan's northwest, specifically in the Swat Valley and towns of Chitral and Shangla.

The temblor killed at least 396 people, including 272 in Pakistan, 121 in Afghanistan, and three on the Indian side of the disputed Kashmir region. Authorities in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said that 62 women and 57 children were among the 223 people killed in the province.

The quake also damaged 35,492 homes in Pakistan. The government has promised to help people rebuild their homes, providing victims with up to 200,000 rupees ($2,000) starting November 2

The government is also providing tents as temporary shelter. But local people have complained they are hadly enough to cope with freezing temperatures and the coming snowfall, and have pleaded for additional aid before winter sets in.

"After November 15, there will be three to four feet of snow here and we have nothing to protect us," Mir Wali, whose village Charun Ovir is 10,000 feet up in mountainous terrain in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district of Chitral, told AFP.

Nawaz said "our priority is that affected people are able to have shelter from cold weather as winter sets in in the area."

Since the big quake, 67 aftershocks have been felt. No further damage had been reported, but there is still danger from aftershock tremors to damaged houses and buildings, Nawaz said.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and AFP