Hundreds of survivors of Pakistan’s huge earthquake filled hospitals Thursday for treatment of pneumonia and flu as temperatures plunged below freezing with the arrival of the bitterly cold Himalayan winter.
Officials said eight people have died from the harsh weather.
Hospitals in the quake zone treated more than 700 people suffering from pneumonia, flu, hypothermia and other weather-related ailments Wednesday, and hundreds more on Thursday, officials said.
A total of 3.5 million people lost their homes in the magnitude-7.6 earthquake of Oct. 8 that killed more than 87,000 people.
Mazhar Rashid Abbasi, an official with the Pakistani charity al-Khidmat Foundation, pleaded for funds to buy stoves, blankets and warms clothes for quake victims living in the nine tent camps the charity is managing in Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan.
“We have exhausted our resources to provide better, warm shelters,” he said. “The winter is getting harsh. They need to keep warm.”
“We need a stove, more blankets and warm clothes to keep warm,” said Abdul Razaq, 28, who is living in one tent with his wife, their three children and the four children of a brother and his wife killed in the quake.
U.N. operations hobbled
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan has said the onset of winter is severely hampering relief operations.
Pakistan told NATO on Thursday it can end its relief operations in January, when its 90-day mandate expires. Pakistan praised the alliance for sending tents and 2,600 tons of relief supplies to the affected areas when they were most needed, immediately after the quake.
Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan called NATO’s help “timely and substantial in providing shelter.” NATO has made over 147 relief flights, while the U.S. Air Force flew its 250th relief mission earlier this week. NATO also sent doctors, engineers and other relief workers to Pakistan in late October after receiving a request from Islamabad. NATO engineers also cleared roads.
A 4.9 aftershock centered in the quake zone was felt in northwestern Pakistan, Islamabad and some areas of Kashmir on Thursday, but there was no immediate word on damage or casualties, said Sailur Rahman, an official at the meteorological department.
Meanwhile, the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan’s part of Kashmir met in Muzaffarabad on Thursday, the first time since the disaster.
Kashmir was divided between Pakistan and India after they gained independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistani Kashmir has its own legislative assembly, court, police and administration, although it is controlled by Islamabad.
Since the quake, the two countries have opened five points along their heavily militarized Line of Control for Kashmiris to meet relatives and friends they haven’t seen for decades.
On Thursday, 16 Indians crossed the fortified frontier at the town of Chakothi that divides the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir.
“It is my first visit in the past 58 years,” said 70-year-old Bano Begum, who said she came to visit the grave of her brother who died in the quake.