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The Stench of Death In Pakistan A Disaster To Rival the Tsunami

October 16, 2005

MUZARRAFABAD, 16th October 2005: The focus of the rescue effort after last weekend’s Pakistan earthquake is shifting from relief and rescue across the 20,000 sq. km affected by the tragedy. The need now is for temporary shelter as the weather closes in, and for planning for future rebuilding.

Habitat for Humanity’s Pakistan representative Farhan Mall is traveling in affected areas north of the capital Islamabad where is meeting potential partner organizations.

“During the past two days, I have visited many disaster struck areas around Mansehra and Muzaffarabad,” he said.

“The situation is worse than one can imagine.”

“You can smell the rotten human flesh from miles away from these cities.”

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Nowhere to go: waiting for help

Mall described a situation where people are sitting on the sides of roads and near their destroyed houses. Food and clothing are available, but the “most urgent need at this moment is shelter because this is the mountainous area and it gets very cold at night”.

In the coming days, nighttime temperatures in the higher areas are expected to fall to zero degrees centigrade. There are fears are that many children who have survived the earthquake will not be able to survive the cold if shelter is not provided within days. Access is getting with roads restored and patients are being shifted to hospitals.

Said Mall: “I talked to a nurse who is working in government hospital in Rawalpindi – a city about 10 km from Islamabad – she said that the injured that are being brought to the hospital now have very serious infections. Worms can be seen in their wounds.”

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Awaiting help: homeless families in Muzarrafabad

Morgues in the hospitals of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and many other small cities, are full of dead bodies and there is nobody left alive in families to claim them. The government is now thinking of burying them. Said Mall: “The government, along with teams from various countries, is trying its best to help the people but the affected area is so big and difficult to reach.”

“There are some places where you can’t even reach by helicopters; even in the normal times, people used to go there by foot or use horses to transport the goods to these areas.”

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Collapse: remains of a car in earthquake-stricken Pakistan

The scale of the disaster could rival last December’s tsunami as satellite images cannot differentiate between village houses with roofs and those with collapsed roofs. According to recent reports, only 10 per cent of families have some kind of shelter.

There are hundreds of villages where nobody has reached with any kind of assistance.

The death toll is very high compared to official figures, said Mall. For example, in Muzzaffarabad about 70 per cent of the rubble is laying as it was on the first day. “Nobody knows how many people are there under the rubble. One can easily tell by the smell in and around the city that there are still thousands of bodies.”

The official death toll is nearly 40,000.