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Pakistan: Misery and tears in Baluchistan’s juniper valley
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Mubashir Fida
November 12, 2008

The tourist resort town of Ziarat, where for generations juniper trees and a majestic landscape have welcomed all visitors, has now, in the blink of an eye, become a place of devastation and sadness.

Pakistan Red Crescent
With their houses destroyed, people are trying to retrieve possessions in the debris, to build makeshift shelters and keep warm during the cold nights they are spending outside. Life in Ziarat is difficult when one is homeless, with temperatures ranging from 26 degrees Celsius during the day to minus 4 degrees at night. To make things worse, it is very windy, which makes it almost unbearable to be exposed to the elements. International Federation
This town in the south-western province of Baluchistan, well-known as one of the bountiful fruit baskets of Pakistan, was shaken hard when a series of powerful earthquakes flattened villages in the region on October 29.

Earthquakes took the lives of an estimated 200 people in a mostly impoverished region, with more than 500 others having been injured. More than 17,500 families have been displaced by the earthquake in this sparsely populated area of Pakistan.

Hot days and cold nights

People in this remote area of the country lived in mud houses which, in many cases, have been reduced to heaps of debris after the earth shook, forcing people to stay outside at night under the cold, open sky.

Life in Ziarat is tough as relief efforts progress, with temperatures ranging from 80°F during the day to 25°F degrees at night. Strong winds are making it even more challenging for the survivors, as the wind chill makes it almost unbearable to be outside at night.

Losing his parents

The entire village of Kili Vam, where nearly 2,100 people used to live, has been flattened. Farid Khan, 14, lost his parents, his grandmother and an uncle in the disaster. Two days after the quakes, with relief teams reporting that small, remote villages had still not been reached with assistance, Farid appears thoroughly distressed.

Although Farid's elder brothers, who were in the capital district of Quetta at the time of the disaster, have come to console him, the memory of losing his parents still makes him cry. "My parents were under the rubble and were shouting for help...I rushed to them and desperately tried to rescue them," he says, tearfully.

After getting his badly hurt parents out from under the debris, Farid tried to save one of his uncles, but he was already lost, as was his grandmother.

Pakistan Red Crescent
Emergency response teams and volunteers from the Pakistan Red Crescent are working day and night to support earthquake survivors, delivering hundreds of tents, tarpaulins and blankets, along with food and essential household items. International Federation
He then brought water for his parents, who were lying on the ground. "I cupped water in my hands and poured it in their mouths," he said. "They were hurt badly and were crying due to the pain. Half an hour later, they were gone. I saw them die in front of my eyes," recalls Farid, his voice broken with emotion.

He, along with his 14 other family members are living in a tent village close to their destroyed village. Farid's elder brothers Feroz Khan, 21, who is a constable in the police service and Mehmmood Khan, 19, arrived from Quetta and are now digging through the rubble where their house formerly stood, to try and recover some of their belongings. All around the village, people were helping each other clear debris.

Unclear future

Being the eldest, Feroz has to think about rebuilding the house and about what will happen to the family when extreme winter conditions arrive.

"I don't know what to do... the weather is getting worse and we can't rebuild before April next year," he says. "We have no clue as to how my family will survive the difficult winter weather here."

Like Feroz, many people are worried about the coming cold and how to take care of their families and their domestic animals.

Feroz's family lost dozens of animals in the disaster, a serious setback to a family that relied on cattle-raising for their livelihood. The family has an apple orchard, but they fear that the trees will suffer because the water source was destroyed by the earthquake.

Red Crescent response

Emergency response teams and volunteers from the Baluchistan provincial branch of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) are working day and night to support earthquake survivors, delivering hundreds of tents, tarpaulins and blankets, along with food and essential household items.

Since October 30, the PRCS has distributed relief stocks to some 1,000 families in Ziarat and health teams are treating the injured. The PRCS has also sent a team of experts to assess damages as well as relief and health needs.

Editorial contributions made by Eric Porterfield, Sr. Press Officer for the American Red Cross in Washington, DC.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

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