CHITRAL (Pakistan) • Rescuers said yesterday they believed they had reached most of those affected by the quake that rocked the country this week, but thousands of desperate survivors now face a race to rebuild as winter looms.
Rough terrain, severed communication lines and an unstable security situation have impeded relief efforts. Monday's 7.5 magnitude quake killed over 390 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan and levelled thousands of homes.
Yesterday, Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said it believed it had reached "most of the affected area". A spokesman said helicopters are still searching for survivors in the most remote, inaccessible parts.
Pakistan's confirmed death toll is now 272, with over 1,900 people injured and nearly 14,000 homes damaged. The spokesman said the NDMA is still in the process of estimating a final toll.
Survivors appealed for aid, fearing for those, especially children, forced to sleep outside in sub-zero temperatures as winter sets in.
"After Nov 15, there will be a metre of snow here, and we have nothing to protect us," said Mr Mir Wali, whose village, Charun Ovir, lies 3,000m up the mountainside in the north-western district of Chitral.
In Afghanistan, the authorities have put the toll at 121 people, with 8,000 houses damaged, but there are fears that the figures could still spike. Charities say the Taleban presence is hindering access to many affected areas.
Mr Mark Bowden, an official of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said access "varies from one (insurgent) commander to another".
At Sawkay district in the badly hit Afghan province of Kunar, residents said on Wednesday that no officials had appeared yet.
"The government has not asked what happened to us," said resident Mohammad Akram. "No government official visited us."
The earthquake was centred near Jurm, in north-eastern Afghanistan, 250km from Kabul and at a depth of 213.5km, the United States Geological Survey said.
Local officials in Chitral, in Pakistan's worst-hit province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said they have few supplies at hand as the region was devastated by floods just three months ago.
Mr Mir Wali said his village has no electricity, clean drinking water or medical facility. Officials handed out 49 tents for 150 to 200 households to share, he said.
Some survivors plan to leave if they do not receive help soon.
Mr Shahroon, a Chitral villager who goes by a single name, said they would stay if the government can help them rebuild before the snow comes. If not, he said, "we will go to Rawalpindi or Peshawar or any other city, and spend our lives begging on the roads".