Aid convoy to Bagh
Thursday October 13
It was around 2 am in the morning when the first aftershock came. I was in the Islamabad office with some of the field staff when the building began to shake. It was a surreal experience. We all left our desks and ran out of the building immediately. Adil Al Mahi, the country co-ordinator then told us how the dogs would bark profusely minutes before a quake. There was silence on the streets – except that is for the sound of barking dogs. A few minutes later when we returned to the building we were soon out again, however this time the tremor was much lighter.
I managed to get a little bit of sleep in the morning before the early start to Kashmir. Today was the first day I would be visiting an effected area. A shipment of blankets had arrived at Islamabad airport on Wednesday and they were desperately needed wherever the earthquake had struck.
We were accompanied by a CNN news crew who were keen to film our aid convoy and speak to locals. We set off on the road that leads to Bagh and Muzaffarabad. It was hazardous, landslides had left giant rocks littering the roads making driving difficult and dangerous. However it seemed that for the most part heavy machinery had been brought in to clear the way for aid convoys to the affected areas.
While we were on the road we got word that more tremors had hit Islamabad and that schools had been evacuated. It was a reminder that the danger of another quake was far from over.
We made our way to an area 60 km from Bagh called Kwala with eight trucks fully loaded with food and 18,000 blankets. Five of the trucks continued on to Muzaffarabad while we stayed to unload three.
Many locals had made their way down from the surrounding villages – it had taken them hours and they were desperate for tents and blankets. The local Islamic Relief office had informed them of our imminent arrival and they came in hope of receiving anything that would keep them warm at night.
Unfortunately we had no tents although they would arrive soon but thankfully we had plenty of the blankets. We then came to know of a remote village were all the houses had been destroyed and where no aid had yet reached. So we jumped into a 4 x 4 fully loaded with blankets and food and made the hour trip.
We entered Surrong and found the tiny village utterly destroyed. It was the first time I had properly seen an effected area. There was noting left but ruins and I couldn’t help but stand and stare over the destruction.
Many had perished here and who would help the survivors rebuild their houses and their lives? It is virtually impossible for any aid to reach them. Sadly their village is just the tip of the ice berg. Beyond the mountains are many others which still have not been reached. Allah knows what state they are in.
Maybe I will come to know in the coming days.