As the death toll from Tuesday’s massive earthquake soared past 500, the military on Friday struggled to provide relief to the affected in the face of attacks from both insurgent groups and desperate survivors.
Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob said that the death toll had reached 515 – a figure that was corroborated by locals but not by the National Disaster Management Authority. For its part, the NDMA did not report any major rise in the toll saying that it was still around 359 with another 765 people being counted as injured.
Despite claims by the government and the military, most of the affected areas have still not been provided relief goods largely due to the lack of coordination between departments.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Awaran Mumtaz Ahmed said that Awaran was not as badly affected by the earthquake as the remote areas. He said that the relief goods being collected in Awaran were supposed to be dispatched to other areas but he had no details of where and how the relief goods were to be sent.
The delay has forced some quake victims to take matters into their own hands. These victims have now resorted to looting trucks and buses carrying relief.
“We are left with no option. We’ve been sitting under the scorching sun since three days and till now have received nothing from the government,” said Master Maqbool Ahmed, a resident who was forced to steal a tent from the military.
Only two miles away from the Awaran Military Headquarters, where hours earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah had offered Balochistan relief aid, things did not seem different.
Labach, a small settlement some two miles from Awaran, echoed with tales of unfulfilled assistance.
Bakhtawar, an 18-year-old who was recently married two months ago, said that around 52 people in the settlement were injured while most of the infrastructure lay in shambles. “We used to live in a place we called home, it’s all in ruins now,” she said.
“We are part of this country, we are humans too,” Bakhtawar added in Urdu, urging the government to help them.
Sitting on a log with his friend, Muhammad Gul called the earthquake ‘God’s wrath’. “It takes seconds for God’s wrath to come down on humans and that exactly is how long it took for everything to change in our lives,” said the 70-year-old.
A local journalist who visited the Mashkai district reported that no control room has so far been established in the entire district which can guide people to undertake the rescue and relief operation.
The arid area is also a stronghold of Baloch insurgents, who have twice shot at helicopters carrying military officials in charge of responding to the disaster.
On Thursday, two rockets narrowly missed the helicopter carrying the general in charge of the National Disaster Management Agency and on Friday shots were fired at two helicopters carrying aid, the military said.
“There is a law and order situation here and other hurdles but despite everything, we will get to every last person,” said Lt. Gen. Nasir Janjua, the highest ranking military official in the province.
Assistant Commissioner, Mashkai Mir Naseer Ahmed Mosiani, told The Express Tribune that the widespread destruction has destroyed most of the water sources—natural springs—in the region. He added that more than 10,000 tents were needed to fulfil the requirement of the affected people in the region.
Meanwhile, some NGOs stated that the Frontier Corps had intercepted trucks laden with relief goods in Lasbela and allowed them to move on only after some negotiations.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2013.
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