Concern mounts as winter sets in across quake-affected regions

Published: 5 November 2015 11:26 CET

By Naveed Siddiqi and Majda Shabbir, IFRC

Within hours of the October 26th earthquake that struck Northwest Afghanistan, volunteers from the Afghan Red Crescent were working in affected villages providing emergency assistance. Adeena Mohammed, a Red Crescent volunteer in Dasht-e-Ting village of Arghnjkhwah district in Badakhshan, remembered the moment the earthquake happened.

“My house was completely destroyed,” he said. “I was fortunate I didn’t lose any of my family members as we came out of the house seconds before it collapsed. I called the Red Crescent’s provincial office in Badakhshan and informed them of the damage to our village.” The National Society’s emergency response teams arrived in the area quickly to provide medical care to the injured. “They also distributed food and relief items including tents so that villagers whose houses were destroyed had shelter,” said Mohammed.

Nestled in a deep valley surrounded by high mountains, access to Dasht-e-Ting is limited by its rough terrain and location. “Winter is approaching. You can see it from the way it has been raining these past couple of days,” Mohammed said. “Soon it will snow, which will probably block the roads to our village, maybe for months.” Like many people in Dasht-e-Ting, Mohammed is concerned for the safety of his family. Without their home, they will have to weather the harsh winter conditions in tents.

In many areas local people describe the earthquake as the worst to have hit the region in the last 30 years.  It killed over 90 people and injured more than 400 in Afghanistan. Over 5,400 houses were left badly damaged.

In Pakistan, the earthquake was also destructive. Samandar Khan and his 7 family members sought refuge with his neighbours after the earthquake completely razed his house in Malakhand District in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It took four days for the Pakistan Red Crescent Society disaster response team to reach his village because of blocked or damaged roads. Samandar Khan, who is in his 60s, had to travel 44 kilometres to the distribution centres to collect relief items from the Red Crescent.

“These iron roof sheets and tarpaulins are very precious,” he said. “We have been looking to God for help and we are happy to receive these items. Now we have shelter from the cold and we can build a stronger house that can resist a similar earthquake.”

The Red Crescent has distributed winterised shelter materials which contain corrugated galvanised roofing sheets, tarpaulins, a shelter toolkit, cooking stove, blankets and kitchen sets to communities in the district.

For now, 40-year-old Bakhsh Shahzada plans to build a single-room shelter. “We have lifted the fallen roof of our house by supporting it with a pillar, but we are afraid to go inside to retrieve our belongings,” he said.

Shahzada had sent his children to stay with a relative, but he has chosen to remains in the ruins of his house to guard his property and belongings. “I will use the tarpaulins to cover our possessions and protect them against the snow and keep them safe until the room is built.”