PESHAWAR / CHITRAL / SHANGLA: A day after a massive earthquake devastated northern Pakistan, people in Shangla and Chitral districts were digging through the rubble, searching for signs of life. Others awaited help, which has been difficult to get, especially for those who need it the most.
At the break of dawn on Tuesday, children could be heard sobbing and shivering after a cold night spent under the sky. Survivors would rather freeze in the open than risk being caught indoors during another cataclysmic movement of the tectonic plates — rumours of which were abound.
Pakistan Navy dispatches relief goods to earthquake victims
Shangla has come out as the worst off in the trail of destruction left behind by Monday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake. The preliminary death count in the district alone has swelled to 48. Another 133 are reported injured, mostly caught under the falling debris and some in landslides. At least 879 houses have been affected with 341 razed to the ground.
Only last week, Shangla district received its first snowfall of the season, plunging temperatures and making it difficult to access the area.
Deputy Commissioner Saadat Hassan acknowledged this fact while talking to The Express Tribune by the telephone. Although no main road leading to the area was blocked, the authorities were facing difficulty in reaching the mountaintops, where most of the destruction has taken place.
VIP movement: Attendants overcrowd hospitals
Shangla’s sub-tehsils Chakisar, Martoom, Alpuri and Shahpur have suffered the most. “Those living at the highest altitudes have been most affected,” says Hassan. But the roads leading to the scattered populations living up there are just rutted paths used by commuters.
The administration had over 400 tents in stock and most of them have been distributed. The DC says the need for blankets and tents is much more urgent than the need for food.
Shangla district was partially affected by the 2005 earthquake and then almost entirely washed away in the 2010 floods. It recently hosted two cultural festivals and was making its way up to becoming a popular tourist spot after Swat. The latest earthquake has frustrated those plans for the foreseeable future.
250 dead in Pakistan earthquake, relief efforts underway
Shaukat Khan, a nine-year-old boy who sat atop the debris of his house in Gullibat village, lost his father on Monday. He says his father has left them poor, so poor they now have no money to rebuild their house. He innocently questions: “Will you help me build my house?”
Most of the houses in Gullibat have been damaged. Repairing or rebuilding them in such a hard terrain does not only require more money but also energy and manpower. A number of routes to the district and link roads have been blocked by landslides and boulders. Communication is difficult and in some areas near impossible.
Even the hospitals were not ready to receive so many victims. Lack of medicines, staff and other important equipment were laid bare by the catastrophe.
Massive quake hits Pakistan
The injured were shifted to Saidu Sharif Hospital, a hospital official said. The sense of fear is evident. Rumours are spreading of a much bigger aftershock and people have refused to enter their houses, or whatever is left of them.
Chitral on the edge
The situation in Chitral is no different either. While this year’s monsoon floods washed away more than half of the district, what remained was destroyed by the earthquake.
The initial death toll from the district rose to 32 Tuesday evening. The district administration says over 200 people have been injured. More than 1,400 houses have been either partially damaged or reduced to rubble, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
Civil, military efforts mobilised
Chitral DPO Abbas Majid Khan Marwat said 493 houses were destroyed and 993 damaged. The additional assistant commissioner told The Express Tribune that the estimates suggest the affected houses could be in the thousands.
Several main roads are still blocked and damaged bridges have made it difficult to reach the affected areas. Relief is scant for now as the government machinery makes its way through.
Chitral Deputy Commissioner Osama Ahmad Warriach said a private helicopter had been arranged for rescue activities while PDMA had offered another helicopter. But he claimed a majority of the mains roads had been cleared.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.