In numbing cold, Chitral's homeless sleep amidst rubble

Chitral's historial fort destroyed in the Oct 26 quake. Chitral’s historial fort destroyed in the Oct 26 quake.[/caption] Shangla (50) Chitral (32) Swat (35) Lower Dir (26) Upper Dir (20) Houses, schools destroyed in quake According to the Pakistan Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), the high-intensity jolts also destroyed infrastructure, including houses and schools, in Malakand. The disaster management body’s initial report said that 26,697 houses were destroyed in total, including 8,307 in Chitral. Soon after the quake occurred, the centre provided a helicopter to KP’s provincial government for carrying out smooth relief operations in affected areas. Several days have gone by but survivors in remote and hilly areas say they are yet to receive any form of assistance from the government. A spokesman for the PDMA in Peshawar says that the weather conditions do not allow them to run helicopter services in Chitral. He, however, says the government has directed the local administration to arrange tents, food items and other relief goods for the quake survivors of the district. Speaking to DawnNews, an official at the District Disaster Unit claimed that the body launched relief operations soon after the quake and that relief goods and tents were distributed among the affected people with the help of the local administration. So far, it has distributed 5,565 tents, 4,865 blankets, 1,877 food items and 850 foams among survivors in Drosh, Danin and other areas. But the assistance is yet to reach upper and remote villages such as Owir, Lashpur and Yarkhun. Locals and survivors reject the PDMA report, claiming that the actual losses are much higher than what it states. “No one bothered to pay a visit to us to express solidarity or to collect data on damages,” Dinar Gul, 52, laments. “I am worried about my children and parents because they are more vulnerable to the extreme cold,” says Ahmed Shah. Disappointed with what they call the lukewarm response of the government, district administration and aid bodies towards quake relief activities, the survivors of these remote villages of Chitral have started rehabilitation work themselves, and are trying to retrieve their belongings from the debris.students A group of volunteers, including 60 members from Booni, were the first ones to reach Owir village in Upper Chitral to help survivors build temporary shelters for protection from the chilly weather. A small and remote village, Overr — which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chitral — has been badly affected in the quake. “We were the first ones to reach the area,” says Shah Nawaz Ali, who is leading the group of volunteers. He says that he spent a full day there to help the locals in removing debris, and to facilitate the reconstruction of temporary shelters. The volunteers worked all throughout the day and restored water channels and roads, he adds. “The entire village has been affected,” says local Aasim Sheraz, adding that 150 houses have been damaged, forcing inhabitants to spend nights outside. “Over 20 houses have been completely destroyed in the Moghlan Deh area of Owir and we need urgent help. We cannot build houses on our own; it is the responsibility of the government to reconstruct houses before the cold becomes unbearable,” he pleas. “We are forced to spend nights under the open sky. We need immediate relief and the government should launch a project to provide temporary weather proof shelter to the survivors.” The quake also caused damage in Molkhow, Torkhow and Lashpur valleys of Upper Chitral. According to the local community, more than 100 houses were completely destroyed in towns in Lashpur —including 38 in Harcahn, 70 in Solashpur, 58 in Balim and 28 in Brok. The Shandur road leading to the valley has also been blocked due to landslides. With the onset of winter, survivors are in also in dire need of tents, blankets and quilts. “A few days ago, a local tehsildar paid a visit to the area, and assured the survivors that relief activities would be launched soon,” says a local resident Noorul Huda Yaftali. “We are forced to spend nights under the open sky. “Children and women are at risk as temperature drops each passing day. We need immediate relief and the government should launch a project to provide temporary weather proof shelter to the survivors.”]]>

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