Cold begins to ravage earthquake survivors

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan – Hundreds of survivors of Pakistan’s huge earthquake filled hospitals Thursday for treatment of pneumonia and flu as temperatures plunged below freezing with the arrival of the brutal Himalayan winter.

Officials said eight people have died from the harsh weather.

Hospitals in the quake zone treated more than 700 people suffering from pneumonia, flu, hypothermia and other weather-related ailments Wednesday, and hundreds more on Thursday, officials said.

A total of 3.5 million people lost their homes in the 7.6 earthquake of Oct. 8 that killed more than 87,000 people.

Mazhar Rashid Abbasi, an official with the Pakistani charity al-Khidmat Foundation, pleaded for funds to buy stoves, blankets and warms clothes for quake victims living in the nine tent camps the charity is managing in Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan.

“We have exhausted our resources to provide better, warm shelters,” he said. “The winter is getting harsh. They need to keep warm.”

“We need a stove, more blankets and warm clothes to keep warm,” said Abdul Razaq, 28, who is living in one tent with his wife, their three children and the four children of a brother and his wife killed in the quake.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan has said the onset of winter is severely hampering relief operations.

Pakistan told NATO on Thursday it can end its relief operations in January, when its 90-day mandate expires. Pakistan praised the alliance for sending tents and 2,600 tons of relief supplies to the affected areas when they were most needed, immediately after the quake.

Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan called NATO’s help “timely and substantial in providing shelter.” NATO has made more than 147 relief flights, while the U.S. Air Force flew its 250th relief mission earlier this week. NATO also sent doctors, engineers and other relief workers to Pakistan in late October after receiving a request from Islamabad. NATO engineers also cleared roads.

A 4.9 aftershock centered in the quake zone was felt in northwestern Pakistan, Islamabad and some areas of Kashmir on Thursday, but there was no immediate word on damage or casualties, said Sailur Rahman, an official at the meteorological department.

Associated Press

A Kashmiri woman crosses a damaged bridge Thursday over the Neelum River in Kashmir, Pakistan, in the area devastated by a massive earthquake Oct. 8.

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