Pakistan: PM visits quake-hit areas as survivors groan

KARACHI, Pakistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday visited the earthquake-hit areas of Azad Kashmir, as thousands of survivors are still camping in temporary shelters amid rains. 

The 5.6 magnitude earthquake last Tuesday jolted the broad swaths of country’s north northwest and Azad Kashmir, destroying thousands of houses, and public facilities and infrastructure — including roads and bridges.

At least 40 people were killed and over 800 others injured — 172 of them critically — according to the figures released by the National Disaster Management Authority, a state-run coordination agency.

Khan was briefed on the human and infrastructural losses and the ongoing relief operations by Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider at a meeting in Mirpur — the worst affected district by the earthquake, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

He also visited a local hospital to see some of the survivors and vowed his government would go all out for the rehabilitation of the earthquake victims.

“The people of Mirpur, who suffered the losses, have my greatest sympathies. I can feel your pain,” Khan was quoted as saying by Radio Pakistan.

Over 5,000 houses have been destroyed in Mirpur, Jehlum, Kotli and Bhimber districts forcing the people to either move to parts of adjoining Punjab province or shelter camps.

Most of the deaths were reported from Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir — home to nearly 500,000 people — where the powerful earthquake badly damaged the public facilities and infrastructure apart from destroying the water resources.

Jatlaan, a small town located 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) from Mirpur city, is the worst-hit, where the administration backed by army soldiers are struggling to reopen a main highway and various other roads destroyed by the earthquake.

Water shortage

Authorities have partially reopened some portions of the battered highway.

Heavy rains hit the district on Sunday and Monday with a forecast for more in coming days, adding to the hardships of already panicked citizens.

Riaz Ahmad, an official of Al-Khidmat Foundation — the relief wing of the country’s mainstream religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami — said at least 5,000 people had taken shelter in tents provided by the government and other relief agencies, mainly in Jatlaan and adjoining villages.

“Even in Mirpur city, people are not sleeping inside their homes because of huge cracks and holes caused by the earthquake”, Ahmad told Anadolu Agency on telephone.

Schools and colleges in the district still remain closed as the authorities have declared most of buildings not fit for the purpose due to cracks and holes caused by the tremors, he added.

Survivors in some areas complain about shortage of tents, food and water, according to local broadcaster Geo News.

Seconding the water shortage claim, Ahmad said the government and the relief agencies were supplying water bottles and tankers in several parts of the district as water resources in most of the areas had been badly damaged by the earthquake.

Pakistan is located in the seismically active Indus — Tsangpo Suture Zone, which is roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, according to the US Geological Survey.

In October 2005, a massive earthquake killed over 80,000 people in Azad Kashmir and the neighboring Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
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