Pakistan Earthquake Victims Struggle Through Winter
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JIM LEHRER: The earthquake update comes from Dan Rivers of Independent Television News. It took him four days to get to the remote Himalayan village Moori Patan in Pakistan.
DAN RIVERS: This is the only way to get to the village of Moori Patan — a treacherous path covered in snow and ice.
We are hiking up six and a half thousand feet to live among the survivors of last October’s earthquake to see for ourselves how they are surviving the winter.
The locals watch on with bemusement. We are the first non-Pakistanis to ever have set foot here, and as we arrive the weather closes in and we’re appalled by what we find.
The families here are living in flimsy cotton tents. This is supposed to be the warmest part of the day, but the children have no protection from the extreme conditions.
Phoebe Sofia is comforting her baby sister in the wreckage of the family home. She’s been ill for three weeks. She has pneumonia.
That afternoon, Mohammed Sabir and his wife, Tartun, take me past the wreckage of their home where they lost their first daughter to the grave of their second child, Pavin. This childless couple offer silent prayers. Pavin was just 18 months old and she died 24 hours ago, a victim of the cold.
We’ve camped in the middle of this snowbound community to experience just how grueling life here is. The more we look, the more desperate this place seems.
The most vulnerable of Moori Patan are weakening each day. The nearest doctor is a six-hour walk away. For some, it’s an impossible journey. By 6 o’clock, it’s dark and the temperature is dropping below freezing.
Fully dressed, an entire family huddles together to try and sleep.
When we came to this village we weren’t quite sure what to expect. But this is about as desperate as it gets. There are a dozen people crammed into the tent and the tent itself is really flimsy; it’s not even waterproof.
The blankets won’t keep them warm at night and the ground here is frozen solid. We’re only putting up with this for a week. But for these people, they’ve got to stay here every single night.
Going to bed here brings fear. It is the night and its gnawing cold that so often claims the weak.
The children of Moori Patan have survived another night. Their bedding is damp, their tents freezing, their shoes are wet through.
Well, it’s about 7 o’clock in the morning on our second day here. And, as you can see, the children are just beginning to come out of these tents. It was freezing enough for us in all this warm clothing and in a sleeping bag overnight. I can’t imagine what it was like for these children in this flimsy cotton tent with only a couple of blankets to keep them warm.
Their day starts with a walk to the spring. They wash in icy water. Ten year old Naseem helps her four year old sister, Hairu. Naseem has had to grow up fast. Their mother died in the earthquake. They take breakfast in one of the few standing houses. Tea and biscuits is all that’s on offer.
DAN RIVERS: Ask them if they have a cough.
DAN RIVERS: As I chat to the children, it’s obvious many are suffering illnesses because of the total lack of medical supplies.
This is little Raman who is just two years old. And you can see he has got a really nasty eye infection. He’s got a bit of a chesty cough as well. If this eye infection that he’s had for five days isn’t treated he could end up going blind.
Sadiq is eight; he seems healthy until he removes his hat. He has scabies. Like the eye infection, it’s easily treated — if only he could get to a doctor.
Lacking the proper protection against the biting cold, the children are rundown and succumbing to infections, a pathetic and depressing situation. Everywhere the sound of coughing children — they survived the earthquake, but can they really survive living like this?
Night brings with it bitter cold. I go back to my tent wondering how on earth these children will endure months more of this. Tiny hands trying to stay warm, bare feet numb with cold, infant minds asking why this winter is so bleak.
DAN RIVERS: Forced to pray out in the cold because their mosque is collapsed, the villagers of Moori Patan are drawing strength from their faith at the worst of times.
The basics of daily life are a real struggle here. Making tea involves collecting water from an icy spring, and then a long walk through the snow.
Most houses are just a shell. A few families are brave enough to live in what remains, despite the risk of an aftershock bringing the whole lot crashing down. All electricity has been cut off since the earthquake. It’s more like the Middle Ages rather than the 21st Century.
It’s been snowing all night. You can see some of the tents have collapsed and the people inside have spent half the night with this huge weight of freezing snow lying on top of them and the conditions really are getting steadily worse and worse. And for these people it’s really just completely desperate now.
MAN: These tents cannot sustain the weather conditions or snowfall conditions. So, I’m afraid either these people have to be dislocated from there — they have to come down to safer areas, more plain areas, because they will not be in a position to prolong their stay there.
DAN RIVERS: They lack warm clothes and proper shelter, but these people have nowhere else to go.
The people of Moori Patan lost a quarter of their population in the earthquake, yet three months on they’re still dying from cold and from illness.
We’re about to leave the village now, but these people face many more weeks of a bitterly cold winter.
DAN RIVERS: Our descent is not easy. The path is treacherously slippery, and there’s a thousand-foot drop on one side.
Even when we reach what passes for a road, we have to dig our way through landslides and run the gauntlet of falling rocks.
There are many villages like Moori Patan — where the cold is slowly taking the vulnerable.
JIM LEHRER: Dan Rivers and his crew did make their way out safely, although the cameraman fell ill and had to be airlifted to a hospital.