Frustration spills over in quake-hit Kashmir
12 October 2005
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 was mounting in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan Kashmir, over what many residents saw as a slow and ineffective response to the disaster. The 7.6 magnitude earthquake killed many people, most of them in Azad Kashmir, and four days after it struck, many survivors say they have 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, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, to the Indian part of the disputed Himalayan region. Mohammad Rauf, in charge of the private convoy of 11 trucks, said he and his colleagues had been beaten by the crowd. He said he had been trying to take the supplies up to some of the many remote mountain villages devastated by the quake, but he and all other traffic on the road and been blocked by a landslide. “My experience has been very bad,” he told Reuters 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 operation said on Tuesday 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 sharing out of government aid. “THERE IS NOTHING” In villages in a breathtakingly beautiful valley just 10 km outside Muzaffarabad, people say they have been given no help. Many are seething. “If they find a government official here he will die,” said Syed Abdul Wadood Shah, who was leaving his home village of Karadla Syedian, taking his large family down to the lowland. 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 tell the 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 bad, we have to find food,” Shah said. “Officially there is aid but on the ground there is nothing,” he said.