Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Six Months In The Life Of Pakistan Quake Refugees

A make-shift tent in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Danny Kemp
Muzaffarabad (AFP) Apr 07, 2006
Before the massive earthquake that laid waste to a swathe of South Asia on October 8 last year, Assia Begum had four children. A few terrifying minutes afterwards, she had nine.

Assia instantly took charge of five children born to her husband's second wife, Shenaz, who lay crushed to death in the ruins of their shared house in the mountains of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Six months later, looking far older than her 39 years, she is still trying to eke out a life for them all in the pair of grubby UNHCR tents they share in the region's capital, Muzaffarabad.

"From morning till night, it's non-stop," sighs Assia, cradling nine-month Hamidali, the youngest of her adoptive children. "But what else could I do? I am their mother now."

Assia and her family are among more than 200,000 people still living in tent camps after the 7.6-magnitude quake destroyed their homes. The tremor also killed more than 73,000 people in Pakistan and 1,300 in Indian Kashmir.

Day begins at dawn when she and two of her own daughters rouse themselves from the plastic- and cardboard-covered floor of the tent and start to prepare breakfast on the dirt pathway outside, she says.

Her husband, Mukhtar Ahmed, 47, a former policeman, takes the only makeshift bed because his collar bone was dislocated in the quake and remains grossly distended.

Assia cooks on a kerosene stove, one of the only possessions the family could bring with them on the 60-kilometre (35-mile) trek from their devastated home village of Lamnian, where hundreds died.

When they arrived in Muzaffarabad amid apocalyptic scenes five days after the quake, they gravitated towards a tent camp near the half-built Nurul sports stadium, one of dozens that sprang up across the city.

"The aid workers put up tents and we just grabbed these two," she says.

Since the quake, non-governmental organisations have built 15 latrines to be shared by the 100 families who live at the camp. An enterprising trader has even set up a cigarette stall.

But an open sewer still rings the camp, exuding a foul stench, and little else has changed, except for the haphazard tarpaulins hanging from the tents to protect them from the elements.

The bitter Himalayan winter -- while milder than usual -- made conditions almost unbearable.

"Winter was a terrible time, terrible," mumbles Mukhtar, ruffling the hair of four-year-old Waqar, another son with his late wife.

"Our clothes were wet, the tent was wet, the floor was wet, we had to drain everything just to survive," adds Assia.

All members of the family developed respiratory infections, while Assia has a persistent problem with her reddened left eye.

The overcrowded conditions also led to an accident when a pot of scalding tea spilled on baby Hamidali's leg a few weeks ago. Assia pulls up the thin shawl covering him to display a livid scar.

Yet eating and drinking is the only pleasure they have, even if it is a daily diet of rice, bread, vegetable curry and lentils for lunch and supper, with the occasional chicken or mutton dish on special days.

In between cooking meals, Assia tries to keep the squalid tent as clean as possible and washes the family's meagre selection of clothes under a nearby tap.

Now that spring has come to Kashmir, life in Assia's tent is more comfortable, although they fear the advent of malarial mosquitoes that summer will bring.

Nevertheless they are finally planning to return to the snowcapped mountains that loom over Muzaffarabad.

Pakistani authorities fixed March 31 as the deadline for the formal end of rescue operations and the beginning of the rebuilding phase, the first part of which is getting quake refugees back to their homes.

Some 4,500 have already left Muzaffarabad, but Assia says they are still waiting for the second 25,000-rupee tranche of government compensation, as well as vital rebuilding materials promised by non-governmental organisations.

Some officials say refugees are avoiding the long march home because they have become too reliant on aid.

"You think we like living here?" exclaims Assia, gesticulating with her free hand. "We are used to being in the mountains in a big house. We just want to make sure we can survive when we go back."

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
the missing link

Italy Explores Disaster Warning System For Caribbean
Georgetown, Guyana (AFP) Apr 06, 2006
Italy on Tuesday agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a disaster early warning system for the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom).







  • Six Months In The Life Of Pakistan Quake Refugees
  • Italy Explores Disaster Warning System For Caribbean
  • US Struggling To Find New Disaster Chief
  • Pakistan To Relocate Town Destroyed By Earthquake

  • Brown University Geologists Create 5-Million-Year Climate Record
  • Severe Ethiopian Drought Claims Thousands Of Livestock Threatens Life
  • UN Decries Biodiversity Decline, Climate Change
  • Better Estimates For Future Extreme Precipitation In Europe

  • US And Indonesia Launch Talks To Combat Illegal Logging
  • Satellites Track Great Barrier Reef Bleaching
  • Envisat Makes Direct Measurements Of Ocean Surface Velocities
  • NASA Scientist Claims Warmer Ocean Waters Reducing Ice Worldwide

  • Coal May Lead Way To Hydrogen Economy
  • NASA Marshall Develops Faster Cheaper Fluid Flow Meter
  • Common Clays Investigated For Use As High Tech Environmental Catalysts
  • New Bioproducts Research Centre Will Help Industry Create Forest Biorefinery

  • Plague Pits And Mass Burials
  • Supercomputer Explores Avian Flu Vaccine And Isolation Options
  • Rain Worsens Risk Of Disease In Drought-Stricken Ethiopia
  • Simple Idea To Dramatically Improve Dengue Vaccinations

  • Lost Photos Confirm Fossil Find
  • Evolution Of 'Irreducible Complexity' Explained
  • New Arctic Fossils Show How Fish Developed Limbs
  • Birdsong Sounds Sweeter Because Throats Filter Out Messy Overtones

  • Can We Slay The 'Yellow Monster'
  • Albatross Study Shows Regional Differences In Ocean Contamination
  • Anti-Nuclear Group Says UN Chernobyl Report Plays Down Deaths
  • China Suspends Industrial Projects Citing Environmental Risks

  • How Does The Brain Recognize Faces
  • Why Are Letters The Shape That They Are
  • Technology Terror And Viagra Could Warp Sex And Relationships
  • Cortex Matures Faster In Youth With Highest IQ

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement