When prevention fails: Infant quake survivor dies of pneumonia in Shangla

Published: November 11, 2015
Several people are left to fend for themselves without shelter. PHOTO: ONLINE

Several people are left to fend for themselves without shelter. PHOTO: ONLINE


A five-month-old from Shangla whose family was rendered homeless after the earthquake died hours after he contracted pneumonia on Tuesday. If he is considered a victim of the October 26 temblor, he is Shangla’s 50th victim; or his demise might be the first of a new, entirely avoidable, death count. As heavy rain and snowfall continued to lash the province, including Shangla, earthquake survivors might become victims, locals fear.

An insider familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune, Arshad Ali, son of Niaz Ahmed, was diagnosed with pneumonia and died a few hours later. “The family had been shifted to a makeshift tent after their house was destroyed,” he said.

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When contacted, the Alpuri assistant commissioner said Damorai, Gumrish, Martung, Kozkana and Sangarai have received six inches of snow and has created problems for the quake-affected population. This is a problem of unspeakable magnitudes for residents of 22,487 houses – 9,976 of which were left demolished.

In Chakesar

Following the earthquake, life for affectees in Chakesar, Shangla has been particularly difficult. Having lost their homes, many of them moved into makeshift tents.

Locals claim relief work has not been carried out in an effective manner and quite a few affectees are still waiting for assistance. The Pakistan Army has started providing food items to the affected population. But those who hail from more mountainous areas have been largely neglected. And more importantly, people need shelter first.

Spiral of misery

Abdul Akbar, a resident of Shangla, told The Express Tribune his house was completely destroyed in the quake.

“I work in Karachi,” he said. “I have come back to stay with my family who are living in tents. They are helpless.” According to Akbar, his wife has to walk several miles every day to fill the water coolers.

“It’s almost dark when she comes back,” he said. “Our children are suffering from severe cold and fever.”

Gul Taj, who hails from Bandai Derai, said the government has not provided any tents or blankets to his family. “About 35 houses have been completely destroyed in my locality,” he said.  Taj is the only breadwinner in a family of 11 people. The natural disaster has wreaked destruction on his fields and threatened their livelihood.

“I used what little money I had to buy plastic and built a tent for my family,” he said. “My children are terrified and I can’t do anything to help them.”

According to Taj, the army visited the region to conduct a survey but has yet to provide relief.

Coping with loss

So many families lost their loved ones in the catastrophe. The fragile gravity of their own situation has added to their grief. Iqbal Khan, a local, lost his brother and nephew when the roof of their house collapsed.

“We are now living in tents and braving the cold,” he said.  He does not know for how much longer they will be able to hold out. Mohli Khan, a resident of Sarkol Tangai, said his mother died in the earthquake. “We lost our house and have no food,” he said. “We have also been provided poor-quality tents which cannot protect us from rain and snow.”

Scars of neglect

Ali Bhaj Khan, a resident of Alpuri, said the government’s negligence has created countless problems. “Wheat fields have been destroyed,” he said. “This will affect the livelihood of so many people who rely on them.”

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Sher Khan, a 50-year-old who hails from Besham, claims no relief package has been provided to his family. “My wife and I have made our own tent,” he added. Meanwhile, all houses in Karshat Jai, a village situated on the outskirts of Shangla, have been destroyed.  When contacted, the Shangla DC told The Express Tribune cheques worth Rs0.2 million have been distributed among 17 quake-affected families in the district.

Rain, snowfall expected till Thursday

Heavy rain is expected in Peshawar, Malakand division, Hazara division and the southern districts of the province until Thursday. A Pakistan Meteorological Department official told The Express Tribune snowfall is also expected in mountainous areas.  With additional input from Peshawar

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2015.

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