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Desperation grows as Afghan-Pak quake victims wait for aid


Chitral :  Earthquake survivors in Pakistan and Afghanistan emerged from a third night without shelter today, 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 ripped through 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 of stock during this earthquake,” Muhammad Bahadur, an official in the village of Darosh in Chitral, part of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The northwestern region, which has been hit hardest by Monday’s earthquake, 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. “We are trying to mobilise NGOs to help them because winter is approaching and it would be unbearable.”

Pakistan’s confirmed death toll so far stands at 272, with more than 1,800 people 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.

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