GILGIT: Plummeting temperatures triggered by fresh snowfall compounded miseries for residents living in earthquake-affected areas of Ghizer in Gilgit-Baltistan. A youth group protested outside Gilgit Press Club on Sunday demanding funds for earthquake relief from the government.
The tremors on October 26, measured at a magnitude of 7.5, also hit several valleys of G-B. However, Phandar Valley within the district of Ghizer was among the worst hit in the country. Hundreds of houses have been reported to have collapsed, gripping the lives of residents in turmoil and destroying the local economy.
Adding distress to chaos
“The situation has deteriorated as people have lost their homes, cattle and trees to the earthquake,” said Inayat Abdali, a youth from Phandar. “The temperature has dropped to -4 degrees Celsius and people have no place to sleep during the cold nights.” Abdali reported at least 360 houses were destroyed while another 400 were partially damaged.
Holding banners, the youth lamented government’s inaction for residents of G-B. They threatened to block the Gilgit-Ghizer road if immediate steps were not taken by administrative officials to compensate the affected families.
Another protester Ehsan Karim said, “The people in Phandar are poor and lack resources to rebuild houses on their own.
But the government seems very disinterested in our problems.” He added this was adding insult to the injuries of the underprivileged villagers.
Karim noted that government authorities held a photo session to distribute food items that were originally donated by nongovernment organisations. “Just food items will not help locals survive the harsh winter,” he said. “The government needs to provide funding so locals can at least make shelters for the present.”
Protesters demanded compensation of Rs2 million per family for demolished houses and Rs1.5 million for partially damaged houses. Disaster Management Authority Director General Asim Raza said compensation would be given to the affected families only after surveys are completed by the district administration. “We have not yet received a survey report from the deputy commissioner,” Raza told The Express Tribune. He added the survey reports will be verified by army officers to ensure funds reach deserving people.
“As part of the government’s response, food items, blankets and tents were provided to all districts immediately after the natural disaster through deputy commissioners,” said Raza.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2015.