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Landslides, aftershocks hamper rescuers in Tangdhar

M I Jehangir in Teetwal
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October 10, 2005 19:48 IST

Fear and anger are writ large on the faces of people in this inhospitable high altitude area close to the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] where intermittent landslides still pose a threat to survivors of the killer earthquake two days ago.

The residents of this area along the KishanGanga river have been cut off from main Tangdhar town due to landslides blocking roads, making it difficult for the army and civil administration to provide relief to them.

Aftershocks of the quake continue to trigger landslides along the mountain slopes instilling fear among the survivors, who are yet to come to terms with the widespread death and destruction wrought by the magnitude 7.6 tremblor.

"We don't know how many people have died in Teetwal, but it must be above 500. There are so many people missing who we fear are dead," said Mohammad Qasim Shiekh, a survivor.

Shiekh said he wanted to go and see the remains of his house and look for those who were missing from his village, but could not muster courage as landslides were common.

Mohammad Aslam, from Panjtara village, said relief to the affected people has remained elusive in this inhospitable terrain for the third day and many an injured had to trek themselves or take a lift to Tangdhar town for treatment. 

"We need tents, food and medical aid as there are still hundreds of injured in the far flung villages. We have not slept since the earthquake struck," said Aslam.

He claimed that the villages of Prada, Panjtara, Bandi, Amrohi, Dhami, Satpura, Gabra, Chamkote, Chitrakote, Bhaderkote, Dildar and Jitra were still inaccessible and devastation in these areas was huge.

"Not a single house is standing. Hundreds have been killed," said Tahir Mehmood, who took two days to bring his sister to Tangdhar medical camp.

A tired Mehmood said that in Bhaderkote villages bodies were lying uncovered and awaiting burial, but no one had time to mourn them as people were worried and finding a cover for themselves.

In absence of relief and shelter provided by the government agencies, people of Tangdhar sector are procuring their tarpaulines and polythene sheets to protect themselves from the harsh weather.

The only shop in Tangdhar town selling these items is so overcrowded that one can hardly find the person who was selling the goods.

"I don't know when the government will wake up. If we can come down to this place, why can't the government people reach us with relief like tents and food?" asked Mohammad Abdullah from Bandi village. 

Abdullah said although relief was being brought in by army helicopters, it was distributed in Tangdhar town only and the peripheral villages had received nothing so far.

"All the focus is on Tangdhar town while the really affected areas are being ignored," the 60-something man said with anger visible in his tone and expression.

Although the extent of damage in the area seems very little, but while carrying out an aerial survey, it is enormous as the visiting media team found upon landing.

"Almost all the roofs are intact, but the wall has given way and the buildings have collapsed. Since most of the houses are made of stone, they are more prone to destruction in earthquakes," Brigadier S S Jog, commander of Tangdhar
Brigade, said.

Indian Air Force pilots have been flying 60 to 70 sorties every day on their choppers to airlift the injured from the cut-off villages. More than 200 injured people have so far been evacuated to Tangdhar and Srinagar [Images] hospitals, Squadron Leader M A Ismail said.

He said their aim was to evacuate as many people as possible while providing relief to those who have so far survived the ordeal.

Meanwhile, army doctors are working round the clock at Tangdhar base camp to provide aid to the injured.

Dr M A MAteen said he has treated over 100 patients since the killer quake struck.

"While 40% of the cases are orthopaedic (fractures) in nature, 55% are cases of multiple injuries. Five % of the cases are neurological cases, which need to be referred to super-speciality hospitals at Srinagar or Jammu," he said.

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