Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Situation Critical

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks

Rain and snow fell across Pakistan's earthquake zone for a second straight day on Monday, grounding relief flights and adding to the misery of millions of survivors camped out in tents and crude shelters. Doctors have reported increasing respiratory infections among survivors.
The Pakistan meteorological department said that some parts of the quake zone, which extends from Kashmir into Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), had seen more than 60 cm of snow.

Meanwhile, the situation is said to be particularly critical in the higher mountain regions of the extensive quake zone, where an estimated 400,000 survivors still cling on to life.

According to Ishfaq Ahmed, who is organising relief efforts for the Kashmir International Relief Fund, nearly 100 children have died from the cold over the past month in Muzaffarabad and Bagh, the two largest towns in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

The death toll in other areas is unknown - with high altitude villages now almost completely cut off from aid and assistance.

Most people still do not have winterised tents. Thousands of the tents distributed in the early days of the quake are in fact entirely useless now. Because of the weather conditions, the efforts to get tin sheets to people so they can build shelters are being repeatedly disrupted," said Martin Sanders, a British relief worker who has been in the Balakot area since October.

Efforts have been continuing for much of the past month to get the tin sheets needed to build shelters to people as fast as possible. Giant Chinooks, brought in by the US military soon after the quake, have been lifting truckloads of the sheets each day to areas in Shinkiari, Battagram, Allai, the Kaghan Valley and elsewhere. But now, weather conditions have prevented the choppers from taking to the skies, except for brief interludes of relatively fine weather - and there are fears that by the time sheets reach people, it may be too late.


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