Pakistan quake death toll nears 40,000
Updated: 2005-10-16 08:45
The death toll from Pakistan's earthquake rose sharply to nearly 40,000
Saturday, with the president warning the numbers could jump still higher as
relief teams reach more villages in the endless folds of the Himalayan
Homeless survivors searched desperately for blankets and tents to brace
against plunging temperatures. The suddenly frigid weather in some hard-hit
areas was an ominous sign that winter was fast approaching ¡ª with thousands of
villagers still cut off from any aid whatsoever a week after the magnitude 7.6
quake hit the region.
Heavy rain began falling early Saturday in many stricken towns and snow fell
in the surrounding mountains, disrupting efforts to help an estimated 2 million
people still lacking shelter. Only 18,000 tents have been distributed so far to
house them, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Saturday.
With temperatures down to 46 degrees, this town became a rain-soaked
nightmare for victims streaming in from nearby villages seeking help from aid
Mohammed Qassim, 25, took shelter from the rain under the corrugated roof of
a collapsed building.
He was searching desperately for a tent to keep his five children, as well as
the families of his two brothers, reasonably warm.
"For the sake of God, please give me one
tent so that three families can live" he recalled telling aid groups, most of
which appear to have run completely out of tents. "They said no." He's hoping to
at least get plastic sheets.
A wounded boy is
taken into a U.S. helicopter in Balakot, Pakistan, Saturday Oct. 15, 2005.
"We distributed 1,000 tents yesterday but we have run out," said Farhi Butt,
who partly owns a telecommunication company that had rushed aid to Balakot.
He had resorted to cutting up plastic signs and distributing them in sheets.
"They're waterproof," he said. "It's not what they're made for, but it will
help the people survive for right now."
Helicopter relief flights ¡ª which have been ferrying
supplies into the quake zone and ferrying out the injured ¡ª were halted for
about 90 minutes Saturday morning before resuming, except to Balakot where the
weather was particularly bad. That left hundreds of injured, cold and terrified
people waiting by the helipad, hoping for the weather to clear.