BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Rushing tents to quake survivors

By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Pakistan

RAF Chinook helicopters
Helicopters are being used to help remote communities
After dark, cargo planes begin arriving at Chaklala airbase near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, carrying tents and other aid material for quake victims.

This is part of the world's contribution to the relief effort following the earthquake in the region.

"We have three airplanes coming in," a US soldier at the airbase tells the BBC.

The earthquake devastated the Kashmir region and northern Pakistan on 8 October, killing more than 50,000 people and injuring tens of thousands of others.

American soldiers are helping put the tents arriving at Chaklala onto a brightly painted truck. Uve Vogel is unloading for the UNHCR.

I ask him if the tents are "winterised", or suitable for the cold weather.

"In the higher mountains, there will be a hard winter. So, tents are a basic supply for the people there.

"And we have to look at how we can help people otherwise. They may need stoves and blankets," he says.

Heavy duty tent designed for long-term use by a single family
PVC groundsheet sewn onto the sides for wind proofing and to retain warmth
Some types are designed to accommodate cooking stoves
ICRC estimates that 30,000 such tents are required in Pakistan

There are simply not enough of the right kind of tents in the world. So they have turned to the local market.

Pakistani traders are struggling to keep up with the demand for tents.

Rana Zahid Hussein's factory, called Universal Trading, is in an industrial area of Lahore.

It is down a street where the dust and exhaust fumes hang in the air at noon like an early morning mist.

I ask him if a tent which is being made is a winterised tent. I ask him how it differs from a normal tent.

"A winterised tent is waterproof and it is a heavy canvas. It also has two layers." He says the double layering makes it good for cold weather.

In the main room of the factory, people are working feverishly. Since the earthquake happened, they are making 200-500 tents a day.

And still they are struggling to keep up with the demand. Little wonder that some have estimated that half a million tents are needed.


Mr Rana believes the entire industry can produce 15,000 a week and he is concerned about the quality of what is being ordered.

"Frankly, I think some tents are not suitable for this area. They are just asking for 450 grams per square metre," he says.

"It should go up to 600 grams. I think that will be much better because it will be much thicker and the people will be safer."

The survivors, of course, are in no position to choose.

On one windswept mountain top in North-West Frontier Province, a crowd waits for a Pakistani military helicopter to land.

The helicopter brought in 40 tents in two sorties. After a struggle, the tents go up.

Already the peaks above are glazed with white and within a few weeks the snow will be creeping down the mountains.

Last year, it was 11 feet up here.

Like many of those given out, these tents are not winterised.

They will be better than sleeping on the ruins - but not for long.

* Many roads in the affected area are damaged and/or impassable


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific