Thursday, October 13, 2005 E-Mail this article to a friend Printer Friendly Version Frustration spills over in AJK
MUZAFFARABAD: Desperation and anger in the area worst hit by the Kashmir earthquake spilled over on Wednesday as survivors swamped a relief truck bringing supplies to more remote mountain villages and beat the delivery workers.
Even as aid was starting to flow, anger over what many residents saw as a slow and ineffective response to the disaster was mounting in Muzaffarabad.
The 7.6 magnitude earthquake killed more than 20,000 people, most of them in Pakistani Kashmir, and four days after it struck, many survivors say they have still received no help.
On Wednesday, a frenzied crowd of men battled each other to clamber up into the truck to grab boxes of bottled water, blankets and packets of biscuits.
“We only see things coming and going, we need food, we need water,” said one man taking part in the melee on the main road from Muzaffarabad. Muhammad Rauf, in charge of the private convoy of 11 trucks, said that he and his colleagues had been beaten by the crowd. He said that he had been trying to take the supplies up to some of the many remote mountain villages devastated by the quake, but that all other traffic on the road and been blocked by a landslide.
“My experience has been very bad,” he said as an army bulldozer tried to clear huge rocks and mud from the road. “I’m going to take the rest of my stuff back from here and dump it at the army camp. They can be responsible for distributing it,” he said.
A military official overseeing the relief operations said on Tuesday that some of the aid efforts mounted by the many private groups and individuals who have rushed up the Himalayan foothills to help, had been chaotic, but the army was setting up distribution points to ensure the proper distribution of government aid.
In villages outside Muzaffarabad, people say they have been provided no help. Many are seething. “If they find a government official here, he will die,” said Syed Abdul Wadood Shah, who was leaving his village of Karadla Syedian and taking his family down to the lowlands.
Shah said 150 people in the village had been killed in the quake and 50 were missing in landslides and under the rubble of 350 ruined buildings. “But these numbers don’t reveal the actual situation,” he said.
The reek of rotting water buffaloes, killed when their barn collapsed in the quake, filled the air.
“Our ancestors’ graves are here. We don’t want to leave, but the situation is so devastating that we have to find food,” Shah said. “Officially, there is aid, but on the ground, there is nothing”. “The aid is being looted in Muzaffarabad and it’s not getting here,” another villager said.
“People have money, but it’s in the banks,” Shah said, referring to banks in the ruined city of Muzaffarabad, most of which was destroyed and damaged in the quake. He said that he did not know if he and his family would ever come back. “We don’t know. The situation is so unpredictable. People are hoping, but there’s no sign of hope in their heart.” reuters