Quake-hit Pakistani villages still wait for aid
DALBADI, Pakistan (AP) — Vital relief aid destined for a remote, earthquake stricken region in Pakistan reached desperate villagers only slowly on Friday, as insurgents attacked troops distributing it for a third day.
Authorities say the magnitude-7.7 quake that hit southwestern Baluchistan on Tuesday has so far claimed 359 dead and 765 injured. The province, Pakistan’s poorest, is also a conflict zone where separatists and government troops have been fighting for years.
In Dalbadi, where almost all of the village’s 350 homes were destroyed, residents said only private aid had arrived as of Friday.
“Nobody from the government or the district administration or representatives in the assembly came to help us or at least visit us,” said Mansoor Ahmed, who had rushed home from the eastern city of Lahore to help his family.
So far, he added, only a truckload of supplies from relatives in the port city of Karachi had arrived. Aid groups have also sent help to the stricken area. While several doctors arrived earlier this week, with medicine in such short supply they could do little more than comfort the victims.
Jameel Ahmed Qambrani, who lost six relatives including a daughter in the quake, recounted horrific scenes after his house partially collapsed.
“It was like hell in our home. Children were buried under the roofs,” he said, adding that it took him seven hours to recover his daughter’s body from the rubble.
Residents said the earthquake struck during the few hours of the day when the village had electricity so many children were home watching television. Most of the quake’s victims were crushed when the walls of their mud brick houses caved in.
Poor roads and other lacking infrastructure have hampered relief efforts, and aid operations have become ensnared in the conflict between the army and separatists, who seek an independent state for the Baluch people.
On Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that his government would help those left in need by the quake.
In a statement from New York, he said authorities had prepared a “comprehensive package for the rehabilitation of earthquake affected people” in Baluchistan. “We will not desert our elders, sisters and mothers at this time of difficulty,” he said.
The military has been ferrying aid into the region by helicopter and evacuating the injured, but their increased presence in a particularly contested area at the earthquake’s epicenter — Awaran district — has led to renewed clashes.
A Pakistani military official said that on Friday, militants fired on a government helicopter for the second time in two days, and ground troops also came under fire.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the helicopter was carrying relief supplies. No one was hurt in any of the incidents.
Groups such as the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and the welfare wing of the hard-line Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa have also provided aid to residents in the stricken district.
Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.