PAKISTAN This is the saddest thing I have seen

 Emergency Response
 3rd Nov 2008

Hasan Mazumdar, CARE’s Country Director in Pakistan, travelled with CARE’s emergency team to the epicentre of the earthquake.

As we approached the village, we could see 60 or 70 dead bodies lined up, ready to be buried. There were many children – very small bodies, wrapped in blankets or clothing. It was terrible to see. Another mass grave had just been covered over. In all, the villagers say there were almost 200 people who died here in this village.

I met a man who told me he had four daughters, but now all of them are gone. They were all sleeping in the same room when the earthquake hit. He took me to where the rubble of his house, and pointed to where his daughters’ room used to be, where they died. They didn’t get out of the house in time. He pulled them out of the rubble himself. They were buried in the mass grave.

There were two earth diggers that had been sent by the government, preparing to dig another mass grave. While we were there, another pick-up truck came with another six bodies in the back, from another village. Everybody was in shock, standing on the side of this mountain. The wind was howling, and it was very cold. They say that the temperature will go below freezing tonight.

While we were watching the burial, there was another strong jolt. The whole earth started shaking. People were screaming. I was about to fall down, it was so strong. Then big boulders started falling down the mountain. It was something I have never seen in my life. We thought the ground would just give way. This is very rugged terrain, and we are standing on the side of a mountain. There are landslides everywhere.

In this village, all the homes were completely demolished. Nothing was left standing. Just piles of clay walls and steel roofs. It was about 6 p.m., and getting dark and cold. Small children were sitting in the open. They don’t even have anything to cover their heads with. I don’t know how they’re going to survive.

Local authorities are taking injured people to the hospital in Quetta, which is a large city. The Pakistan army and government is here, setting up tents and distributing emergency supplies. The first thing we need is tents, to get people out of the cold. CARE is dispatching 500 tents, plus hygiene kits and kitchen supplies for the survivors. But the roads are quite treacherous.

Wam is the worst-affected village, right on the epicentre of the quake. There are more than 20,000 people affected. Many of them will be sleeping out in the open tonight, like the villagers I saw today.

I talked to an elderly man, who had lived through the 1935 and 1979 earthquakes, but he said this was more powerful. He pointed to the cracks on the ground, where the earth opened up, and he said that had never happened before.

There have been more than 20 aftershocks since I’ve been here. Everyone is scared. It’s very unstable. This is the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life.

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