Begin forwarded message:
From: Sreenath Sreenivasan <ss221@xxxxxxxxxxxx> Date: December 8, 2005 10:05:22 AM EST To: SAJA E-mail Discussion List <saja-disc@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> Subject: QUAKE: Beena Sarwar report + Bay Area visitor
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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 15:00:27 +0000 (GMT)
From: Beena Sarwar <bsarwar1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "beena-issues@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" <beena-issues@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [beena] Quake situation: tent conditions; fire kills 7 survivors;
Dr Quratulain Bakhteari of IDSP (www.idsp.org) is in the US till the end of Dec on a private family visit; she would like to share her first hand experience of the earthquake hit area where she has been working; she also has a video of the situation she can show. She has her grandson's cellphone with her - 401-837-8778; will bein the Bay area till Dec 20 then Providence, RI till the end of the month. She has been visiting hospitals and meeting with injured people in the tent cities. She says most survivors are wearing the same clothes they were in when the earthquake hit; most have been unable to wash or bathe (whatever water they have is freezing cold); there's a dancer of scabies and other diseases from that. Also of concern is the fact that they are totally dependent on outside help now.
Yesterday, seven tent dwellers, including four children, died when their tent caught fire (http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-16/0512079081175020.htm) - the fire may have been caused by a candle, it reported. There is no lighting facility in most of the tents and the survivors are using candles for light, aid workers say.... Last week a top UN official warned that 90% of the 420,000 tents distributed to survivors are not "winterized" and are not by themselves adequate for the freezing Himalayan weather that is already rolling into the area. Aid agencies are warning that a lack of food and shelter, combined with increasingly harsh winter conditions, could cause a second wave of deaths for victims of the October 8 earthquake. Despite the government appeal to the survivors to come down from the mountains, many are still reluctant to leave cold mountainous areas. Pakistani officials are urging countries to send more winterized tents and corrugated iron sheets, as reconstruction activities will begin after the completion of a survey to determine what areas are safe, probably in another few weeks. ...At least ten people are known to have died from cold-related ailments such as pneumonia since the onset of the brutal Himalayan winter, and hundreds stream into hospitals every day. Doctors say the situation could worsen in the coming weeks if arrangements are not made quickly to provide adequate shelters for the estimated 3.5 million people who lost their homes in the 7.6-magnitude quake.
ADIL's OBSERVATIONS This is a note from friend Adil Ahmed, who was in the quake affected area Nov 12-18th. He flew from Karachi to Islamabad, then drove to Muzaffarabad and onwards to Garhee Do Patta “(because of the river Jehlum cutting the valley into two pattas! get it? - that's for real the reason for the name...trust me to dig the inconsequential)”. This is where the base camp in this sector is, of the 10th Brigade from where all the relief effort is being co-ordinated.
We were for most part in Chikar and beyond, further up and away from Muzaffarabad (altitude five thousand feet plus). The peaks are now visibily covered in the distant mountains, but the snow won't get into the areas where we were for most part till third week December and beyond. This is the valley area upto Chakoti and smaller points beyond.
If it was not for the Brig. Sheryar and his men, the doctors would have nobody taking them to inaccessible areas. The 10th Brigade assists with airlifts by providing ground support and logistics to the many choppers, and hospitality at every camp to doctors and volunteers assisting the doctors.
It's these camps that are holding surgical and medical clinics in places where no doctor or medicine has gone before. It's these camps where officers, like Col. Iftikhar in Chikar, another hour up from Garhee Dopatta arranges proper sit down dinners at the day's end to keep the doctors and volunteers cheerful and involved in whatever they can do.
To say that 95% of Jehlum Valley is covered by these camps may not be exaggerating it by more than a few single percentage points. These camps are centres providing up to four hundred tents a day in areas where only the mule train is bringing the tents. At one such mule train destination the heli-pad takes up most of the space, and it's a miracle manning those camps and also hosting the doctors and volunteers with five-star hospitality. The officers and jawans, on the other hand, are roughing it like few would believe. Brig. Sheryar is in a camp where most of his equals in Pakistan would not park their cars. The boys amongst officers and soldiers are even more hard pressed. But they continue taking up four hundred tents on each mule train accompanied by five men. The men lead and follow the animals as all animals are loaded. It’s alright for a mule, but these men are working even harder to ensure they are distributed as they come, and the doctors and co. are also taken care of.
Hats off to 10th Brigade.
Having said that about the infrastructure of the helpers, let’s talk about the valley and the dwellers six weeks after the tragedy.
Most of the major panic is over. The visitors to these clinics in even far off areas need simple surgical procedures or few day regimen of oral medication. The common reasons/complaints are repeat visits for dressings or plaster cast removals for surgical side to common ailments for the medical side. Accidents are still happening with structures crashing as people try to retrieve whatever they can. But those are far and few and the choppers are still carrying a few dozen patients for more complete care to Muzzafarabad or 'Pindi whenever the need be. The choppers are always there when needed by the doctors courtesy the base camps.
But now we are in the "rehab" stage of the effort. The wounded from the quake have been taken care of by either the rescuers or time. There are few left unattended. Obviously, many died due to the chaos that must have prevailed. People didn't have the opportunity to tend to others as each household was too involved pulling its own out to know of the outside. It was only when they came out to bury the dead that the extent of the damage hit them. Those alive are people who have lived thru hell. It is impossible to ever fathom the psychological impact of that moment, but suffice to say that people are still petrified. Grown men cry talking to strangers, and mothers still wait outside demolished school buildings in Muzaffarabad to find some remains of their child/children yet not recovered from the debris. The stench of rotting flesh is still a reality after six weeks plus. But the worst is over from that tragedy will need all the caring we can muster. Mental health needs to be monitored to keep track of the impact in months and years ahead. What the people in the affected areas need now is psychological and emotional help to overcome their fear, and start rebuilding their lives again.
Here are a few poems I wrote upon return. The first is a 'poem', and the second, an 'observation'.
Pain, shrouded in beauty, kept me from Hearing the cries echoing in the air. But not for long… Watching the moonlight bathe the peaks The tranquility cried louder than all echoes. The heart saw where the eyes were not looking Imprinting images of pain for-ever Surrounded by cries of those alive.
I had run out of candy day two, and half way. The late comers heard my excuses, and missed out. We gathered again the next day, as usual Outside the clinics, And the next , without candy, and it struck me: There was no need to apologise for candy yet again The kids were returning to giggle and not for candy.
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