The Earthquake that struck Northern Pakistan, including the Pakistani Kashmir on October 8th has left a long trail of destruction and devastation beyond imagination, comprehension and description, writes K2 summiteer Nazir Sabir, President of the Alpine Club of Pakistan in an email to ExWeb. His words echo the desperate appeals sent over the past weeks from Pakistan to the worlds climbing community.
While governments around the world hold long discussions on Pakistans situation and possible aid measures, the climbing community has reacted more swiftly, and is gaining momentum by each day. Emails are filling ExplorersWebs inbox with reports from all continents on groups already providing assistance in the area, and asking all climbers to contribute.
The American Alpine Club emailed all members Friday about a coat drive it is leading for victims of the earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir, writes Dougald MacDonald, former editor and publisher of Rock & Ice magazine. "Climbers and skiers almost always have extra coats lying around that seldom get usedhere's how you can do something useful with them." Check "The Mountain World" Dougald's new online blog for details (links section).
The North Face report to ExWeb that they are working on a tent/supplies drive to collect used tents at the NF stores and plan to ship out a few shipping containers worth, through their partner Global Giving to coordinate distribution.
The Alpinclub Sachsen were among the first to react, soon followed by a large number of individual climbers, such as Agusti Giró, from the Catalan Magic Line team on K2, 2004, working through the Mountaineers for Himalaya Foundation. Italian Mauricio Gallo for the Karakorum Trust, a humanitarian project developed by Cesvi and supported by the Ev-K2-CVnr (the scientific institute running the well-known pyramid near Everest BC) traveled to Balakot (Kaghan Valley, Pakistan) last week. And there are others.
Nothing left for 3 million survivors
The aid is arriving at the last minute. Nazir Sabir provides some urgent numbers:
Among constant aftershocks, about 3 million people are seeking shelter, medical aid and food for their survival over the approaching winter, explains Nazir. Over 55,000 people, mostly children and adolescents, perished. The severely injured - most suffering from fractures warranting amputation exceed 70,000. Those living in mountain areas have lost virtually everything - possessions, property, livestock, jobs and businesses. The actual magnitude of the tragedy and devastation may never be known given the difficulty in accessing many of these remote areas.
There is an urgent need for tents and blankets for about 3 million people. Some of the far-flung areas and villages are in dire need of shelter and food but because of lack of helicopters or communications, we unable to deliver the relief supplies these people so desperately need.
Climbers asking climbers for help
Government estimates put the reconstruction costs at US$ 5 billion - international aid agencies having committed just one fifth of it. While the reconstruction and rehabilitation plans may take some time to reach the ground, millions of homeless people are in dire need of tents, blankets and medical aid. Friends abroad who are in any way related to the mountaineering community are requested to come forward and provide whatever assistance they can.
The relief goods can be directed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Donations may also be sent to the Alpine Club of Pakistan, either in cash or kind. Alternatively, donations may be sent to the President of Pakistan Earthquake Relief Fund in all Pakistani Banks abroad, Nazir ends his report.
Greg Mortenson, ready for an aid winter expedition
Greg Mortenson, founder and Director of Nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI), is preparing for his upcoming two-month trip to Pakistan, where part of his efforts will be devoted the rehabilitation of schools destroyed by the earthquake.
Greg confirms Nazir Sabir statements on the current situation of millions of left homeless, and has further reiterated that the international community's response to the tragedy has been far too slow and scarce:
The Red Cross received over $ 1.2 billion for the Katrina disaster and $ 500 million for the Indian Ocean Tsunami, but less than $ 2 million to date for Pakistan's disaster relief work, Greg explained.
Yesterday, Ghulam Parvi, our Pakistan manager, told me that in some remote mountain villages where little or no aid has yet to arrive, villagers have been forced to live a stone-age type existence in caves, eating their remaining livestock, and digging out grubs and roots in the dirt with their bare hands. In some villages above 10,000 ft., snow is already on the ground.
In Urdu, the lingua franca of Pakistan, the word for earthquake is zalzala, but according to Sarfraz Khan, one of our workers in the field, he says locals refer to this disaster as Qayamat: the Apocalypse.
Donated clothes for fuel
In the quake-devastated town of Balakot, Sarfraz Khan, one of our Pakistan coordinators told me he saw tent camp residents burning donated western clothing on fires for warmth and cooking due to a lack of fuel. He also saw goats and sheep dressed in donated items to protect them from the frigid nightly temperatures.
According to Dr. Qamaruzzaman Chaudhry, chief of Pakistan's seismological department, as of October 27th, there have been 978 aftershocks since the giant 7.6-magnitude quake struck. Aftershocks or earthquakes of higher than 5.0 on the Richter scale generally trigger rockfall and landslides, which destroy roads, irrigation channels, and precious crops that are harvested and stockpiled for winter reserves.
On a brighter side: A little is a lot
A little money goes a long way in Pakistan: A woolen, winter pair of Shalwar Kameez (local pajama-type clothing) costs $ 2 - 4. Chinese or Iranian winter blankets cost $ 8 - 12 in the bazaar (2 - 3 people can sleep under one). Large, heavy-duty canvases, winterized tents used extensively in refugee camps, are available in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar for 6,000 - 10,000 PK Rupees ($100 - $ 160).
Perhaps 1,500 - 2,000 American climbers and trekkers have been in Pakistan's mountains in the last fifty years. If each of those climbers or trekkers contributed $100 to a charity working in the region, that would equate to $ 150,000 - $200,000! Some well-equipped climbers barely survive a one-night bivy in the freezing elements; in Azad Kashmir's mountains, a starving child without shelter has no chance when winter sets in. Let's not let this happen to our dear mountain friends in Pakistan, ends Greg his report.
How to donate?
To Alpinclub Sachsen team:
Mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help. Find also a bank account set up for donations to the project at www.alpinclub.com
Alpinclub Sachsen e.V.
Donation account Pakistan
Account Holder: Alpinclub Sachsen e.V.
Account Number: 030 866 28 02
BLZ 850 800 00
Dresdner Bank AG IBAN DE39 850 800 00
SWIFT DRES DE FF
To Alpine Club of Pakistan:
Contact ACP for further information, or donate via the following back account:
Lt Col (Retd) Manzoor Hussain,
Alpine Club of Pakistan
National Bank of Pakistan Cantonment Branch,
To Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute:
Contact Central Asia Institute at:
PO Box 7209
Bozeman, MT 59771
Phone 406 585 7841
Fax 406 585 5302
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