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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 20:12 GMT
Pakistan's forgotten quake victims
Residents of Nagaparker collect what's left of their homes
Victims in Nagaparker say their plight has been ignored
By Susannah Price in Nagaparker

The international community may have mobilised a massive aid operation for victims of the Gujarat earthquake in India.

But just across the border in Pakistan, families in the poverty-stricken desert town of Nagaparker say their plight has been ignored.

A large proportion of the homes here were damaged or destroyed by the quake, the epicentre of which was just 170km away.

Map of India and Pakistan
And for a people already battling the effects of a severe drought, it is difficult to see how this beleaguered community will ever recover.

"The walls began collapsing above us and we couldn't stand up," said Atija, who was at home with her children when the first shock wave struck on 26 January.

"All I could see was dust everywhere and then I must have passed out," she added.

Forgotten

At least 30,000 people are estimated to have died in the quake, which struck near the Gujarati town of Bhuj.

But residents of Nagaparker say the scale of the destruction in India has drawn all attention and possible aid away from their own suffering.

Atija and her family have made a temporary shelter now where they cook and sleep.

Some nearby houses belonging to relatives are still standing, but everyone is terrified by the aftershocks and would rather sleep outside.

Child in Nagaparker
Local doctors say the situation is desperate
Atija says they will stay in the shelter until they can afford to build a new home.

Which may be never.

No sign of help

The government distributed 200 tents in Nagaparker, many for institutions such as the hospital, police station and government offices.

But there's no sign of any help rebuilding the homes of the town's 3,000 inhabitants.

Local doctors say there is an urgent need for food and funding.

A damage assessment team visited the town, but still no-one has any idea which buildings are safe.

Locals are bitter that the Pakistan Government sent tents and blankets to victims in India, but has taken far longer to mobilise resources for its own people.

The local deputy commissioner, Asidulla Direjo, acknowledges the criticism.

"We might not have come up to the expectations of the people but even then I would say the government is considering it very seriously," Mr Direjo said.

Drought

One of the most serious effects of the earthquake was the damage done to wells in the surrounding Tar desert, already hit by severe drought.

The water in some wells is now undrinkable.

"It's made all our problems from the drought worse," said well owner Talshul, adding that three villages used to depend on his well.

"Last year we had some food aid, but this time no-one has come to support us," he said.

The earthquake has come as a crippling blow to a region already struggling with poverty and drought.

Unless aid arrives soon, the future for the people of Nagaparker is bleak indeed.

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See also:

05 Feb 01 | South Asia
Quake effort turns to long-term help
29 Jan 01 | South Asia
Prosperous Gujarat laid low
28 Jan 01 | South Asia
India seeks $1.5bn loan
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