Hundreds more survivors of Pakistan's huge earthquake sought treatment Thursday for weather-related ailments following a cold snap, hospital officials said. The known death toll in northern Pakistan from the first cold snap of the brutal Himalayan winter stood at eight. Hospitals in the quake zone on Wednesday reported treating more than 700 people suffering from pneumonia, hypothermia and other illnesses, and said hundreds more had come in by early Thursday, though the weather was turning sunnier and warmer.
Doctors have said the situation could worsen in the coming weeks if arrangements are not made quickly to provide shelters equipped to deal with harsh winter conditions to quake survivors. Officials worry that a lack of sufficient shelters and aid could cause a second disaster for the 3.5 million people who lost their homes in the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed more than 87,000 people.
Mazhar Rashid Abbasi, an official with the Pakistani charity al-Khidmat Foundation, said it badly needs funds to winterize the nine tent camps that it is managing for quake victims in Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan. "We have exhausted our resources to provide better, warm shelters," he said, adding that refugees will be given coal stoves to heat their tents. "The winter is getting harsh. They need to keep warm."
Abdul Razaq, 28, told a far-too-typical tale. The farmer from Nauseri, a village about 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of Muzaffarabad, is living in one tent in a refugee camp with his wife and their three children, along with the four children of a brother and his wife who were killed in the earthquake.
"We need a stove, more blankets and warm clothes to keep warm," he said as his three children huddled in a blanket in one corner of the tent. "We try to keep the children in the tent to protect them from the cold. We light a fire outside the tent at night and in the morning. This helps the children to get warm."
Christine Neveu, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' coordinator for Kashmir, said the agency is in constant contact with managers of tent villages and that it has been convincing them to follow a UNHCR model by digging a fireplace pit about a meter (two to three feet) deep with an outlet for smoke, reports the AP. I.L.