Winter Storm Collapses Tents and Slows Earthquake Aid Efforts
Winter Storm Collapses Tents and Slows Earthquake Aid Efforts-
Heavy snow and rainfall has triggered many landslides in
Pakistan-administered Kashmir and NWFP, cutting off rural road
access and grounding helicopters since Sunday. Many tents
throughout the region have collapsed and people are struggling to
cope with the onset of harsh winter conditions. UN personnel and
IOM staff have been restricted to their bases of operations over
security concerns with unstable road conditions.
With mountain communities cut off for the next few days, IOM
started on Monday an emergency operation for people living in the
city of Muzaffarabad. Seven teams with 300 plastic sheets each have
fanned across the city and are providing assistance to locals in
protecting their tents from the rain.
“Everything is wet and people are shivering in soaking
tents,” says IOM Muzaffarabad field coordinator, Isabelle
Giasson. “Mountain tops that were still bare before Christmas
are now covered in snow. It’s worrying because we won’t
be able to reach any rural area until at least
A strong, westerly wave of snow and rain hit
Pakistan-administered Kashmir and NWFP on Saturday, dropping four
feet of snow in three days. The heavy rain and snowfall is expected
to subside on Wednesday, but will be followed by a severe cold
spell for the rest of the week.
In Bagh, IOM personnel are also handing out aid to urban
residents. In the rain and snow, coordinators are distributing 500
corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets to the suburb of Gogar Ban,
and are setting up 20 distribution points in Bagh to hand out an
additional 500 tarpaulins, 900 plastic sheets and 200 sweaters.
Working conditions have become even more challenging in Bagh after
IOM’s office tent was flooded and equipment had to be placed
in plastic bags.
Emergency winterization kits donated by Britain’s
Department for International Development (DFID) containing 2
plastic sheets, 3 blankets and rope, have been prepared in
Islamabad and are being transported to IOM’s main
humanitarian hubs. Over the next couple of days, depending on road
conditions, a total of 2300 kits will be transported to Bagh, 1450
to Mansehra, 3500 to Batagram, 2000 to Balakot, and 3000 to
In addition to these supplies, 400 shelter kits containing eight
CGI sheets and various tools were transported to Muzaffarabad on
Monday and 500 shelter kits will be sent today to Bagh.
In Batagram, IOM, CARE, Save the Children and other NGO
officials have begun to focus more attention on four union councils
in Allai Tehsil, which are still in need of emergency shelter aid.
Field workers in the region report many people are still without
“one warm room” to use for the winter. Providing aid to
these people in Batagram and Allai Tehsils will be substantially
more difficult as the roads in this area have been among the
hardest hit by the recent landslides.
The roads into the mountains around Balakot have also been cut
off, but roads in the bottom of the valley are still usable, and
IOM is expanding its relief services where possible.
On 31 December, IOM Balakot began a pilot project to provide
free bus services to people in the region. It was so successful
that IOM has committed to the concept, and already 10 buses are
operating daily in the snow from Balakot, Gari Habibullah, Basian,
Boie and onto Brarkot on the NWFP/Pakistan-administered Kashmir
border. IOM officials say that more than 3,000 people a day have
jumped on the bus for short trips to town and back for medical,
food and personal needs.
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