Joined: 03 July 2005
No more tears, only worries of survival
BAGH: No more tears, only worries of survival and an uncertain future. This is Bagh city, the district headquarter, once a scenic and sprawling valley, now reduced to rubble.
People have buried their dead, in most cases without coffins and in mass graves, and many of the critically injured, who could not survive and bear pain. A handful of the injured, especially villagers, were lucky enough to make it to the planes and were flown by helicopters to big city hospitals.
Many of the injured are still languishing in the fields near their destroyed homes in villages scattered across the valley, some even at a remote distance of 30-40 kilometres and 2-4 kilometres climb on the mountains that jolted them on October 8.
Dirpani, Tangiat, Makhdoom Kot, Paniali, Jaglari, Thob, Malot are main concentrations of the village population in this area. No medical and other aid has made its way to these places. Instead, the villagers, after burial of their dead and those critically injured who expired in the first two to three days, have finally come down to the city to look for aid.
Surprisingly, food and clothes is not their top demand. They are desperate for tents and medical facilities — both scarce in the city too. The District Headquarter Hospital caved in on October 8 and there is no major facility with the army personnel stationed in the brigade headquarters.
However, hats off to a handful of volunteer doctors from Sindh, who are stationed in a building adjacent to the main road passing through the city. The building, badly jolted in the quake and very dangerous to live, belongs to a private school run by a local journalist, Zaheer Hussain.
Dr Zafar Zaidi, Dr Majid Rana and Dr Rao Kamran are members of 30-member team of doctors and paramedics from Sindh who are in Bagh for the last three days. They are all volunteers, working round the clock, without basic facilities. Some of them are wearing the same clothes since their arrival.
"In one day, we have carried out 150 cases of general surgery, 180 of ortho, 500 cases of minor injuries and more than 1,000 dressings," said Dr Zaidi. "The people of Bagh need a field hospital and operation theatre, but the authorities here are telling us every day that it is in the pipeline. We have sent critically injured to the brigade headquarter from where they are flown to Rawalpindi. But, unfortunately, there are no critically injured survivors in the area now. Majority has expired. We need X-ray films, surgical equipment, medicines but a field hospital is the top most priority," he added.
Dr Zaidi said the team would leave for Karachi in two or three days, and God knows what would be the back up. Doctors were bitter about the incident the other day when a truckload of relief goods was looted by desperate locals, perhaps not knowing that medicines and X-ray films were part of the consignment which was much needed by their brethren in the city's only makeshift hospital.
Ironically, the building housing these doctors is very dangerous and has developed major cracks. Majority of the patients are sitting or lying in the lawns in open sky. They have not been provided with tent by the authorities.
In Bagh, the aid is flowing fast, mostly through private volunteers, organisations, companies, but the process is not organised. This is why the aid is not reaching the far-flung areas. In the city and area leading up to the city, unwanted clothes and cartons of used goods can be seen piled and littered on the roads, but this is not the case of villages far away.
One Aminul Islam, working in Islamabad, could not reach safely to his village, 15 kilometres from Bagh city, on Wednesday as the truckload of goods destined for the cluster of villages that his parents and relatives inhabit was looted just outside the city.
Amin buried two of his sisters and a niece on October 10 after recovering them from under the rubble and then came to Rawalpindi looking for aid. He said he would try his luck on Friday (today).
On way to Bagh city, one could even see some trucks belonging to Punjab, NWFP or Sindh governments and departments. Unfortunately, the dingy 65-kilometre route from Kohala Bridge to Bagh is not safe. Army personnel have recently been deployed for safety and removal of traffic bottlenecks on this narrow road, which is choked these days because of heavy traffic of aid goods and landslide.
The district consists of three Tehsils: Dherkot, Haveli and Bagh. The unfortunate and worst hit is Bagh. Many in the city had no opportunity to escape. Majority of the shopkeepers of the main bazaar are still under the rubble and residents say only a miracle can save them. The cloth merchants and shopkeepers, dozens of them, were Pushtoons. No one has seen them sine October 8. They are buried under the rubble. Their relatives from NWFP are now pouring into the city, but without hope.
School and college children were the most unfortunate. A majority is still buried under the rubble of their campuses. Inter College for Boys has 30-35 students under its debris. The Postgraduate College for Girls has eaten up 70-80 students with only 4-5 dead bodies still recovered.
Principal Nilofar visits the site every day till there is light. She has not seen any of her students alive since the killer earthquake buried them all. Now people avoid the very site of the college because of foul smell. But occasionally desperate and ruined parents come there crying for help with their hopes dwindling with every passing day.
But there are also the unfortunate ones who are not inquired about these days as parents are dead in homes and the children are under the debris of their educational institutions. The Postgraduate College for Boys (Bagh) presents no different scene. The information technology class was in progress on that fatal day when the quake struck and 150 students were buried under the debris. No survivors so far.
Then there is Imamia Colony in the centre of the city. Mohammad Hafiz Kiani is one resident. Forty-eight members of his family are now trying to house a single tent meant for not more than a dozen people. They are survivors of the quake, which ate up his little niece.
"I have been selling fish and vegetables in the market of this city. My shop is under the rubble. The house is destroyed. For the first two days after the quake, all our near and dear ones sat under a tree. Now we are on this roadside. Male members fetch packed juices, rusks and water bottles from the brigade headquarters but even that is not enough for so many to feed. It took my family three decades to build a three-storey house. We lost it in seconds," he said looking towards the sky with tears rolling down his cheeks.
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