Saturday, November 14, 2015

'How would your kids survive?' Fears for #Chitral's quake victims

Some Charun Ovir survivors, like this woman photographed October 29, 2015, have been supplied with tents and food aid, but the village still has no electricity or clean drinking water (AFP Photo/Farooq Naeem)

With winter looming and relief supplies slow in coming, some young earthquake survivors in Charun Ovir village, photographed October 29, 2015, are sleeping outdoors (AFP Photo/FAROOQ NAEEM)

"There will be three to four feet of snow here" within weeks, says Pakistani earthquake survivor Mir Wali, standing amid the rubble of his house in Charun Ovir village on October 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Farooq Naeem)


In the village of Charun Ovir in Pakistan's Chitral district, one of the worst hit by a powerful earthquake this week, children are sleeping on the frosty mountainside, surrounded by the rubble of their flattened homes.

With winter fast approaching, temperatures are already plummeting below zero at night, and the anguished adults of the village are asking painful questions.

"After November 15 there will be three to four feet of snow here," said 50-year-old farmer Mir Wali.

"How long would you or your kids survive under such conditions... 10 hours, 12 hours, 24?"

Monday's powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing nearly 390 people and levelling thousands of homes, forcing many to camp out in the open.

The army has led the rescue effort in Pakistan while the government has promised aid and compensation, but with many of the affected communities isolated by rugged terrain, help may not arrive before the snow does.

Charun Ovir is perched 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) up the mountainside in the northwestern district of Chitral, in Pakistan's worst-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The village has around 150 homes -- some 140 of which were destroyed in the quake. There is no electricity, no basic health facility, and no clean drinking water.

View gallery"There will be three to four feet of snow here" …
"There will be three to four feet of snow here" within weeks, says Pakistani earthquake su …
Dust is still rising from the mountainside after the earthquake left cracks in it, leaving villagers fearing a landslide that could bury what is left of their homes.

The government has handed out 49 tents, Wali said. He also received flour -- but had no water and nothing to make food out of it with. "My children fell asleep crying of hunger."

"I appeal to the world to do something for our kids," he told AFP tearfully.

- 'Helpless, hopeless, crippled people' -

Aid agencies have warned that children in particular are in peril after the quake.

"Children in earthquake-hit areas... are facing further deadly threats as extreme conditions and insecurity cut off communities from aid," the UN children's agency UNICEF warned in the days after the tremor.

Some communities in northwestern Chitral are already trying to rebuild themselves.

View gallerySome Charun Ovir survivors, like this woman photographed …
Some Charun Ovir survivors, like this woman photographed October 29, 2015, have been supplied with t …
But for others, the quake -- coming just three months after floods devastated the district -- may have been the breaking point.

"If we stay here the kids will die," Shahroon, a resident of the Chitral village of Usiak, told AFP.

Shahroon, who goes by one name, said he felt the ground in Usiak begin to shake shortly after 2:00 pm Monday.

"I told the kids to run out, and then there was a brief pause. What came after the pause was horrible," the 33-year-old said.

A loud bang was followed by falling rocks -- then, to his terror, he heard the sound of his house cracking.

"I ran out... stones were rolling down the mountains and it was smoke and dust and sounds of falling rocks. There were screams of children, elderly men and women."

When the shaking stopped, his house was rubble.

The first night, the men and boys of his family slept under the stars, while the women and girls were housed by a neighbour who had one room left undamaged.

By the second night, they had managed to pull some of their belongings from the rubble -- including two tents, where the men and boys are now living, shivering through sub-zero nights on the hard, frosty ground.

Some of the children, he said, are as young as four.

Local authorities in the region say even the supplies they had to hand were used up during July's floods.

"Winter is coming and soon there will be snow everywhere, the children won't survive the cold," Shahroon said.

"We have received no aid from the government.

"We can't even complain to them, for who are we -- just a bunch of helpless, hopeless, crippled people."



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