Thursday, October 13, 2005

Earthquake victims angry at gov't reassurances

Daily Times - Site Edition
Friday, October 14, 2005
Victims still cut off, dismiss aid promise
* Soldiers scour mountains for quake victims * UN official calls situation desperate * Aid arrived too late, say Balakot survivorsGHARIDUPATTA: In parts of Pakistan still cut off five days after Saturday’s earthquake, people angrily dismiss government reassurances that help is on the way as the army struggles to clear landslides blocking roads.The confirmed death toll from Saturday’s quake was 25,000 on Thursday, but some local officials and politicians say it could exceed 40,000.Muzaffarabad was devastated and outlying areas suffered huge damage and numerous casualties, but most parts have yet to be reached as landslides triggered by the quake have blocked or swept away roads.A Reuters news team on Thursday trekked up Jhelum Valley, crossing six big landslides and passing numerous rock falls on a 10-kilometre stretch of road to reach the small market town of Gharidupatta, 25 km east of Muzaffarabad.While army helicopters have evacuated most of the injured, residents say they have received no aid.Pakistani troops raced on Thursday to reach remote parts of earthquake-hit Azad Jammu and Kashmir where no relief workers had set foot and thousands are feared dead.Soldiers in their hundreds lined up at a field in the city for their turn to board a helicopter bound for isolated villages in the Neelam Valley.About 30 kilometres northwest of Muzaffarabad in Balakot, which was also totally destroyed by the quake, villagers were walking in with their wounded from the surrounding mountains.“No search team came to our village. Most people have fled and there are only the injured left. Nothing came by helicopter either,” said Zaman, 28, who said he came from “the other side of the mountain” in the village of Bahngia.In the remote town of Bagh, the centre of a district with some 390,000 people in Azad Kashmir, Maj Khalid Hussain said he could not count the dead.“We have suffered massive loss, but we cannot give you an exact figure. Presently the biggest task of the army is to restore road links to the hundreds of villages which are cut off,” he said.The people of Hajira and adjacent areas have appealed to the Pakistani and Azad Kashmir governments as well as donor agencies to help earthquake victims in the area.UN disaster coordination chief Jan Egeland, who visited Muzaffarabad, which was near the epicentre of the quake in Azad Kashmir, said relief workers were facing unparalleled difficulties in the Himalayan region.South Asia’s earthquake was more devastating than last year’s Indian Ocean tsunami in terms of the number of homeless and destruction to infrastructure, a WHO official said on Thursday.The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Thursday confirmed that the death toll from Saturday’s earthquake had risen to 25,188 dead and 53,001 injured.The NWFP Crisis Management Centre said on Thursday that the death toll in the NWFP had reached 11,531, Daily Times correspondent reported.Two additional US military CH-53 helicopters arrived on Thursday while an eight-member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, a Daily Times correspondent reported.The Water and Power Ministry was told on Thursday that 30 percent of the transmission lines of the Balakot and Battal grid stations had been erected and electricity restored.The World Food Programme said on Thursday that it would divert 65 trucks from its operation in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s quake-hit areas, sending them across the border with tonnes of food and other aid.Two transport aircraft left Japan for Pakistan on Thursday as part of an emergency assistance team of 120 troops and three helicopters to distribute supplies to earthquake victims, officials said.Two freight trains carrying relief goods for earthquake victims will be arriving in Rawalpindi today (Friday).The bodies of a PIA captain and his wife and an unidentified foreigner were evacuated from the rubble of Margalla Towers on Thursday. The death toll in the towers’ collapse has risen to 42.The number of health workers helping quake victims need to be doubled or even tripled in some locations to help the estimated 50,000 injured people there, WHO said on Wednesday.About 8,000 schools were damaged or totally destroyed by Saturday’s quake, the NWFP education minister said on Thursday.Meanwhile, rescue teams were packing their bags in Muzaffarabad late on Thursday, as attention is turned to bringing relief to desperate survivors. agencies
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