Rugged terrain, severed communication lines and an unstable security situation have impeded relief efforts since Monday’s 7.5 magnitude quake killed more than 390 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan and levelled thousands of homes.
With winter fast approaching in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was hit worst by the quake, survivors said they and their children were running out of time. “After November 15 there will be three to four feet of snow here and we have nothing to protect us,” said Mir Wali, whose village Charun Ovir is 10,000 feet up in mountainous terrain in Chitral.
Dust is still rising from the mountain after the earthquake caused cracks in it, leaving villagers fearing a landslide or collapse. “Are we not Pakistanis?” he said. “Today we need Pakistan. The government must act before the snow falls,” he said. “After that the roads will be blocked and we won’t be able to save our children.”
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Thursday announced on its website a spike in the number of houses damaged in the quake, from nearly 14,000 to more than 25,000. More than 15,000 of those were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone. For days authorities had been struggling to reach the most isolated communities in the mountainous region, but the NDMA said that it believes it has reached “most of the affected areas”.
The confirmed death toll in Pakistan so far stands at 272, with more than 2,000 people injured, but a spokesman said the NDMA was still in the process of estimating a final toll.