The Sun (Malaysia)

Child quake survivors at risk of exposure

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KABUL: Earthquake survivors in Pakistan and Afghanista­n emerged from a third night without shelter yesterday, as village leaders warned they had nothing to protect children from the freezing conditions while rescuers struggle to reach isolated communitie­s.

Desperate victims appealed for blankets, warm clothes and food after Monday’s 7.5 magnitude quake hit the region, killing nearly 390 people while levelling thousands of homes and forcing many to camp out in the open.

Rugged terrain, severed communicat­ion lines and an unstable security situation have impeded relief efforts since the disaster, and local officials said they had few supplies to hand after the region was devastated by floods just three months ago.

“We usually have our own stock but we already consumed it during the floods so we were running out during this earthquake,” said Muhammad Bahadur, a Pakistani official in Darosh village in Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhw­a province.

The northweste­rn region, which has been hit hardest, also saw thousands evacuated in July as floodwater­s swept away dozens of roads and bridges in the district.

Bahadur’s village had just 70 tents on hand when the quake struck, he said.

“Around 2,500 houses have been completely destroyed. Imagine how we can satisfy the need with only 70 tents?”

Hundreds of children are now sleeping under the open sky with little protection against sub-zero nighttime temperatur­es, he said.

Pakistan’s confirmed death toll so far stands at 272, with over 1,800 injured and 11,000 homes damaged.

Aid agencies have warned that shelter and hygiene will be the most pressing needs for survivors in the coming days, with the UN saying children in particular face deadly conditions.

The Pakistan Red Crescent said snow was already falling in some areas, forcing them to wait for the weather to clear.

“Winter is coming and soon there will be snow everywhere, the children won’t survive the cold,” Shahroon, a resident of Usiak village in Chitral, said. – AFP

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