QUETTA - Rescue and relief efforts are yet to gain pace as local people and journalists confirmed that in most earthquake-affected areas no rescue activities were visible two days after the quake that devastated almost half of Balochistan. The death toll has touched 357.
On the other hand, militants have started targeting rescuers in order to hamper relief activities, which already are sporadic, and to spread further chaos.
Militants fired rockets at a helicopter carrying the head of the National Disaster Management Authority in the quake-hit Awaran Thursday, military officials said, but no damage was done. The helicopter with Major General Muhammad Saeed Aleem, chairman of the NDMA, on board was flying over Awaran, the area worst hit by Tuesday’s 7.8-magnitude quake.
“Two rockets were fired on the helicopter and the target was missed,” a military official in Quetta told AFP. “The area is rife with insurgency and has presence of Balochistan Liberation Front insurgents.”
Another military official confirmed the attack and said everyone in the helicopter was safe. Hours later paramilitary troops helping the relief effort were fired at with small arms by suspected rebels, around 20 kilometres north of Awaran, but there were no casualties, a senior security official said.
The army has sent troops, medical staff and helicopters to help with rescue efforts, along with seven tonnes of food and a tonne of medicine.
The government is preparing to send more than 14,000 tents, and is using a C-130 transport plane to reach difficult areas.
However, a local journalist reported four truckloads of supplies reached the office of Deputy Commissioner, Awaran, and the supplies were not unloaded or diverted to the worst affected areas. The reason was non availability of the required manpower for further transportation or unloading.
Dad Shah Qambrani, secretary general of the Awaran Bar Association claimed that all the 150 houses in his village were razed to ground in the earthquake.
All the houses were completely destroyed forcing the people pass their lives under the open sky, Dad Shah told newsmen.
He said that relief supplies and rescue teams did not reach and not a single official of the government or security forces had reached the spot.
Journalists reported that no rescue effort or relief operation was seen in most parts of the biggest district of Balochistan.
The army troops from Malir Cantonment are yet to reach Awaran where they will establish a field hospital and participate in rescue and relief operation.
Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) chief Hafiq Basit insisted that relief operations were in progress in Awaran and the PDMA had dispatched 9,000 tents, 19 truckloads of supplies, including that of food and medicine, to the affected areas. He said more supplies were being sent to the area from Karachi.
About the death toll, Jan Muhammad Buledi, a spokesperson for the chief minister, claimed that 357 people were killed and more than 500 injured. However, a local journalist Shabbir Rakhshani claimed that 450 people lost their lives. He also said that most of the affected people were passing their days and nights under the open sky and no relief supplies had reached them.
Meanwhile, a high-level meeting reviewed the rescue and relief efforts in the earthquake affected areas. The chief secretary, Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad presided over the meeting in which representatives and officials participated.
The chief secretary directed all the officials to ensure relief to the people in the quake affected regions and the priority should be attached with food, clean water and other necessities of life.
He said to the officials that “we should start rescue and relief work from zero.”
Yaqoob said that one month food for every family and 20,000 tents should be rushed to the affected region and at all costs. The meeting was informed that the drinking water supplies remained intact and not damaged in the earthquake, thus the people would get safe and clean water.
Officials of the Health Department claimed that doctors had reached Awaran and the seriously injured people would be shifted to Uthal and Hub for better treatment. He said medicine worth over Rs 4.5 million had been dispatched to the area.
The meeting was assured that the field departments would get the necessary funds for carrying out their activities and that inflow of funds would continue.
It was also decided that the relief goods received from other provinces and agencies would be dispatched to the affected region from Karachi directly. Officials of the Revenue Department had been given the task to make assessment of losses.
The Sindh government had sent two truckloads of supplies. The Balochistan government would rush 5,000 tents, 2,000 blankets and 5,000 packs of ration for the affected people.