QUETTA (Reuters) – Relief efforts in a Pakistani valley hit by a powerful earthquake this week are turning to preparing thousands of homeless for a freezing winter, officials said on Saturday, as aftershocks jolted survivors.
The 6.4 magnitude quake struck Baluchistan, Pakistan’s largest but most poor province on Wednesday, destroying or damaging thousands of mud-walled homes and killing at least 215 people.
The epicenter was in Ziarat district, a picturesque valley framed by jagged mountains and one of the region’s main tourist spots. Night-time temperatures are falling below freezing.
Scores of aftershocks, some nearly as strong as the original quake, have hit with a magnitude 5 shock rattling the region at dawn on Saturday. There were no reports of new damage.
Population Minister Humayun Aziz Kurd said about 75,000 people were homeless because their houses were destroyed or damaged.
Authorities aimed to get everyone under shelter by Saturday night and into proper accommodation within a month to help them cope with the winter, he said.
“We have enough food supplies and they have reached every corner of the quake-affected zone,” Kurd told Reuters.
“There’s no major health problem that we’re facing. Of course, people were injured in the quake, but our medical teams, the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and the people have done a great job.”
The quake struck just over three years after 73,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake hit Pakistan’s northern mountains. Last year, the worst floods on record in Baluchistan killed hundreds.
PLAN FOR WINTER
A spokeswoman for the U.N. Children’s Fund said aid was getting through.
“There is a lot of activity, the army has been very active in providing tents and food,” said the spokeswoman, Antonia Paradela. “The work now is coordinating with the authorities and aid agencies to make sure all the people affected get aid.”
The majority of the homeless were children with many sleeping out in biting cold either because their houses were destroyed or damaged, or because the aftershocks left families too frightened to sleep indoors.
“That’s an area of concern, to make sure that children who survived the earthquake are going to be OK in the aftermath,” she said.
“What is needed most now is to plan for the winter, to make sure the tents have some sort of winterization, extra layers, to make sure kids have warm clothing, to make sure there’s no outbreak of disease because the kids are vaccinated.”
The quake is one more problem for a government struggling with a balance of payments crisis and a surge of militant violence.
Allies have promised help.
Saudi Arabia is giving $100 million while the United States and China had promised $1 million each for rehabilitation work.
Japan and several other countries had also promised help while the World Health Organization said it was sending two truckloads of essential medicines and supplies.
The World Food Programme said it would provide 700 tonnes of dry food rations in initial relief supplies for an estimated 20,000 homeless.
Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province but its most thinly populated. It has Pakistan’s biggest reserves of natural gas but there were no reports of damage to gas facilities.
In 1935, about 30,000 people were killed and the provincial capital, Quetta, was largely destroyed by a severe earthquake.