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Earthquake victims still stranded

A. Zia
People remain stranded the highlands of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, defenceless against sinking temperatures.
17.11.2015  |  Peshawar
Residents examine the damage to their homes in Shangala, Khyber Pakhtunkwa province. (photo: A. Zia)
Residents examine the damage to their homes in Shangala, Khyber Pakhtunkwa province. (photo: A. Zia)

Rozeena Bibi, 10, sits outside her makeshift tent in the Gughoor village of District Chitral in Pakistan, and her eyes fill with tears as she recalls how her school bag was destroyed along with her two-room house in the earthquake which rocked parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan in late October.

 “My bag including books, pens and notebooks have disappeared in my house, I searched for it but the roof and walls collapsed onto it,” said Rozeena, who is now living with her five-member family in a tent provided by the government.

 In the Gughoor village, around 100 houses were fully destroyed and Zarshee, a girl Rozeena's age, died in the strong quake. 

 As well as her school bag, Rozeena's school was razed to the ground.

 While his daughter cried for her lost school bag and education, her father, Khan, said the rest of the family were concerned about where they would live in the future: “When the earthquake destroyed our house we worried about our house while she cried for her school bag,” he said.

 Khan, is a labourer and cannot afford to reconstruct his home but said the tent is cold and snow has begun to fall in the hills, meaning that they need more stable emergency accommodation.

 According to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority report, 232 people were killed and 1,577 were injured in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The report said 85,752 houses were completely damaged while around 10,0000 others were partially damaged.

 It said compensation would be paid to families of the 213 people who were killed and the 311 people who were injured and cheques had been distributed among 6,268 people who lost their homes.

 However, Fayaz Khan, a resident of Chitral District, voiced concern that snowfall would increase the suffering of victims. He said that hundreds of vehicles were stuck in the Lowari tunnel because of heavy rain and snowfall, leaving passengers, including women and children, stranded.

 He said homeless people displaced by the quake in Chitral valley were forced to live in extreme cold, adding that thousands of people had been made homeless, deprived of necessities.

 Some had managed to flee to lower areas but many were stuck in the valley, exposing them to cold. He said the government would have to shift these people, many who had no accommodation, or they will die from the extreme temperatures.  

 Idress Jamal, who lives in the Jaghoor village, said 100 of 500 houses had been destroyed but said that at least residents were near to Chital City and therefore were in a better position from those in more remote hilly areas who lacked food and protection against the elements.

 However, some warned that the compensation offered by the government was way below what was needed. Peshawar Muhammad Sajid Khan, an engineer of University of Engineering and Technology, said that said the government's payout of Rs 0.2 million per house fell short of the cost of Rs0.5million to build a single-room house and added that the costs of building is higher in mountain regions.

 However, PDMA Spokesman Latif­ur­Rehman said that so far Rs 0.6 million is being distributed among families of people killed, with payouts of Rs 0.2million for badly injured people and Rs 10,000 for those who have been lightly injured. Rs 0.2 will be paid for houses that were completely damaged and Rs 10,000 for those which are partially damaged.

 Due to snowfall and cold temperatures, a spokesman said that people in hilly areas will be accommodated in school buildings as an emergency solution. For the long term future, he said they have called a donor conference to discuss how best to help people rebuild their lives.

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