Earthquake in Pakistan: Caritas on front line in bringing aid, but winter is coming
by Kamran Chaudhry
The death toll in Pakistan rises to 272 dead. Over 2 thousand wounded and thousands of earthquake victims living outdoors. Caritas Pakistan has organized two groups who are visiting the districts of Malakand, Swat, Dir, Peshawar and Islamabad. Women buried in collapsed houses, while males were at the mosque. Rescuers ask for help to reach the remote areas before winter freezing temperatures arrive.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - After the violent 7.7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Pakistan, India and Afghanistan on 26 October, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of wounded, two groups of aid workers of Caritas Pakistan are visiting the more remote areas of the country, where the focus is now on approaching winter.

Rescuers are concerned about the villages in the most inaccessible areas, where the aid workers are struggling to arrive due to a lack of roads and infrastructure. Bakht Zada ‚Äč‚ÄčNaik, a Pakistani woman of 75 told the volunteers: "I was standing in my house when our stone wall collapsed injuring my right leg. I can not move it now. No other organization - apart from Caritas - asked us if we need help. "

The death toll of the earthquake continues to rise. Pakistan is the most affected country, with 272 confirmed dead and at least 2 thousand wounded.

In the north-eastern Afghanistan, the epicenter of the earthquake there were 115 casualties, hundreds injured and at least 7 thousand homes destroyed. The Taliban, who control the area, have joined relief efforts.

Titus Gill, Caritas Pakistan Islamabad-Rawalpindi coordinator for emergencies, met survivors in areas of Malakand, Swat and Dir. He told AsiaNews: "Most of the men were outside. Despite the restrictions imposed by Islamic tradition [forbidding women to speak to men, unless they are their husbands - ed], we were able to bring relief to women injured by the collapse of their homes. Even students of madrassas (Islamic schools) were injured".

One of the team leaders, returning from the earthquake zone, in a mountainous region to more than 6 thousand feet above sea level [1,800 meters - ed], told AsiaNews: "Seven boys from 8 to 10 years were buried under concrete blocks while trying to escape from the mosque in the Sheri Dara village, in the district of Dir. Their hands and feet were bound when we met them".

Caritas is bringing aid to local authorities, health departments and families. With winter fast approaching, the main concerns are the drastic temperatures, icy roads, the threat to the security and the difficulty of reaching the villages scattered in the mountains.

The volunteers emphasize the need to bring warm clothes as soon as possible, blankets, tents, building materials, farm animals and other non-food items.

Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, concludes: "We have to plan our aid distribution with the Commissioners offices because it is difficult to select a single headquarters for the mountain areas. We are appealing to emergency experts to join the efforts of the diocesan offices to search for the needy in remote areas of the country".