The U.N. refugee agency said Thursday it will start training survivors of Pakistan's massive earthquake to make safe fires in their tents to avoid more deadly accidents as temperatures fell below freezing. Earlier this month, a fire caused by a candle swept through a tent, leaving seven people dead, including four children.
Morgan Morris, head of operations for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Muzaffarabad, near the center of the Oct. 8 quake that left about 87,000 people dead and 3.5 million homeless, said the agency will train people how to dig pits for a fire inside their tents, surround it with bricks and set up a chimney.
UNHCR also will provide sand-filled buckets to be used as fire extinguishers, she said. "We are starting a program to train people in the tents to make a fireplace before we provide them kerosine stoves," she said. "This is necessary to avoid any fire incident in the tents."
Many survivors of the quake, which flattened entire communities and almost ruined Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, have been living in crowded tent camps in and around the city.
Nighttime temperatures have dropped below freezing in the quake zone, and on Wednesday, the British aid group Oxfam warned that the harsh winter could cause a new wave of casualties unless international donors honor pledges to provide the homeless with more winterized tents and blankets.
Indrika Ratwatte, the UNHCR emergency coordinator for earthquake relief in Pakistan, said each person was being given three blankets, and each tent should have received four mattresses, two plastic sheets and one stove.
"Many relief items have already been distributed in the last few weeks, and this latest round of distribution is to fill gaps to make sure everyone receives the full package needed to help them cope with winter," she said.
In a riverside camp in Muzaffarabad, Noor Zaman, 35, who is living with his parents and children in one tent, said they had received 20 blankets, two for each member, and a plastic sheet for winterizing the tent, but no mattresses, reports the AP. I.L.