A day after announcing a compensation package for quake-hit families, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised a grant of Rs40 million for the people affected in Kohistan to help them pay back their agriculture loans.
Monday’s massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake has left 272 people dead with casualty reports still trickling in from remote areas. At least 2,123 people have been injured and thousands rendered homeless, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
While the authorities have been quick to announce compensation packages, help has been slow to arrive, especially in the remote regions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which was hit the hardest by the deadly earthquake.
Addressing the survivors on Thursday, Premier Nawaz said the government could understand their pain and loss and would do all within its means to bring them comfort. He was accompanied on his visit to Kohistan by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and K-P Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak. The PM announced the Rs40m package after the locals told him about the improbability of paying back their agricultural loans in the wake of the natural calamity. He then asked the community representatives to compile a list of people, who had acquired the loans, to make sure everyone with outstanding payments was able to pay it back.
The PM had announced a compensation scheme on Wednesday under which Rs600,000 will be paid to the families who lost a loved one in the quake while the injured victims would get Rs100,000. Those who lost a limb will be allowed to claim Rs200,000. Families whose houses were razed would get Rs200,000 while Rs100,000 would be given to those with partially damaged homes.
All earthquake victims in tribal areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are eligible for the payments, which would start from Monday after due verification.
The premier said the government was trying its best to reach out to the far-off places. Some areas are inaccessible by roads and helicopters will be used to airdrop relief goods. “The first priority is to provide shelter, blankets and food rations to help the people cope with the calamity,” he said.
He directed the local administration to ensure that relief measures were geared up to reach out to the people living in difficult areas. He also directed the NDMA chairman to ensure that relief goods reached the needy without any delay.
About the development of Kohistan, the PM promised to promote the tourist spot of Soput valley in Kohistan, expansion of Karakorum Highway and linking it to the motorway and paying the local landowners the market rates of their land being used for the Dasu hydropower project.
CM Pervaiz said the provincial government was working with the centre for providing relief to earthquake survivors.
He assured the locals the roads blocked by landslides would be opened and the hospitals and schools would be made functional at the earliest. He also announced the construction of two colleges in Kohistan.
President visits Bajaur
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain along with K-P Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan visited the quake-hit Bajaur Agency to meet the affected families.
He visited the injured at the agency headquarters hospital in Khar and later addressed a tribal gathering.
At least 23 people died and another 159 were injured in Monday’s earthquake, which damaged 8,120 houses. Also 32 schools and 12 heath centres have been affected in the agency. The survivors have been given 900 blankets and 864 tents so far. The NDMA’s preliminary report states that 225 people were killed in K-P, 30 in FATA, 10 in G-B, five in Punjab and two in Azad Kashmir. Around 25,364 houses were damaged with 15,689 in K-P, 9,038 in FATA, 570 in G-B, 61 in Punjab and six in AJK.
According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, over 62 aftershocks with magnitudes ranging between 2.5 and 5.3 on the Richter scale have been recorded so far since October 26.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.