It is feared that more people may be trapped under collapsed buildings.
Once again the mountainous region of northern Pakistan has been rocked by an earthquake, this time in the Diamir district. Measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale, the earthquake hit in the early hours of Thursday 21 November, while people slept.
At least 23 people have been confirmed dead, including 18 children, and over 100 people have been injured. Most of the victims were women and children. It is feared that more people may be trapped under collapsed buildings.
Returning to assess the damage
As the military conducted search and rescue operations, Islamic Relief’s Pakistan Emergency Officer, Mr Shafeeq-ur-Rehman flew into the affected area by helicopter and gave a first-hand witness report of the situation.
“I could hear the noise of heavy rocks, crashing down into the Indus river,” said Rehman. “The river is normally green-blue, but it was running brown with the debris from the many landslides.”
Roads into the area have been cut-off by landslides, impeding access to the area. A huge dust cloud covers the area, causing problems for military helicopters trying to ferry out the wounded. “The dust is so dense, it is impossible to see even as far as a few feet ahead,” described Rehman.
The government established a camp for survivors of the first earthquake, at Gunnar Farms, a small town 30 km north of Chilas. Currently 1700 people are housed in the tents, and at least 70 more people are expected on Friday. According to initial estimates, up to 10,000 people have been affected by the earthquake.
The second earthquake has raised fears amongst the displaced people in the camps. “It frightened the children, and the elders as well - they are now considering remaining in the camp rather than going back,” explained Rehman.
A crowd gathers
Winter temperatures in the region can fall as low as -5°C (23°F). To help the homeless people survive the cold, Islamic Relief will be providing quilts, stoves and reinforcement sheets for the camp.
“We provided some camp management training to the Elders Committee and the Government officials in charge of the camp, to help them with distribution systems, hygiene sensitisation, problem identification procedures and the like.” said Rehman.
A series of earthquakes hit the Gilgit area previously, on the 2nd and 3rd of November, killing eleven people and injuring scores.
As one of the only international NGOs present in the area, Islamic Relief will be monitoring the situation and responding to the needs of the earthquake victims.