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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Quake survivors answered your questions
Young girl sits by tents put up to aid homeless in Muzaffarabad
Hopes of finding any more survivors seem over
As part of its coverage of the South Asia earthquake, BBC News website correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan spent the day in Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, where thousands died and many more have been left homeless.

He spoke to locals and officials and asked them questions sent in by readers. Many of you asked how badly the area had been affected, whether relief supplies were adequate and how the tragedy had affected relations between Pakistan and its Indian neighbour.

The answers to many of your questions are below.

Aamer Ahmed Khan, Muzaffarabad, 1930 local time (1430 GMT)

It has repeatedly been said by both officials and locals that there is no dearth of food and the urgent need is for shelter.

Yet whenever a relief truck enters a camp, people mob it. Soldiers have to rush to control the crowds.

Why is this so?

Unfortunately, disasters are easy to forget once the initial shock wears off.

Just as Hurricane Katrina is no longer a story, the earthquake that devastated Kashmir last Saturday is fast becoming yesterday's news.

Many Kashmiris face a winter with no job, no shelter and no means of knowing where their next meal is coming from
That is what the people here fear.

With Muzaffarabad's infrastructure shattered, the economy in ruins and livelihoods buried under tons of concrete, where will the Kashmiris go once Pakistanis and the rest of the world lose interest?

That is why people are still rushing to supply trucks, trampling the old and the meek, pushing away the women.

It is every man for himself.

They are hoarding yes, but can anyone blame them?

Few outsiders can imagine the harshness of winter in these deceptively beautiful valleys.

Tens of thousands of Kashmiris are facing a winter in which they will have no job, no shelter and no means of knowing where their next meal is coming from.

BBC News website correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan responding to question from Syed Alla Baksh, Hyderabad, India at 1900 local time (1400 GMT)

Q: What is the role being played by local newspapers? Are they publishing or have they stopped due to the quake? Is the administration responding to stories in the press?

A: The local press has been obliterated. All the presses are buried under the debris.

The city's largest newspaper distribution agency - Azad Book Shop - is left standing but its owner has lost his house and is busy making arrangements for his family.

That is perhaps why even newspapers printed in Pakistan are not being brought to Muzaffarabad regularly.

A local hawker told me that Wednesday was the first day when Pakistani papers were brought to the city, once the main Muree-Kohala route had opened.

But there were few who were interested in buying those papers. "Most of the people who read the papers have left the city," he said.

I agree with his reading of the situation.

Although I feel that newspapers will not take long to revive, one big difference will be the absence of the small local press.

What is most likely to happen is that some of the big publishing houses in Pakistan - sensing an opening in the local Muzaffarabad market - will move in.

The small press owners simply do not have the financial power to restart their businesses anytime soon.

Question from Aneep Sanjiva, Leicester, UK to Khwaja Saghir, computer sciences student and Farooq Ahmed, electrician at 1820 local time (1320 GMT)

Q: What are the views of the people in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on India offering help across the line of control bearing in mind many parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir are yet to receive any help whatsoever?

A (Khwaja): Musharraf made a big mistake by saying no to Indian help.

We didn't need to take any money or food from India. But they could have helped us recover the dead bodies from remote places.

Khwaja Saghir [left]
Khwaja lost his teenager brother in the quake
When my younger brother was born, my mother was too ill to look after him.

So I literally brought him up. He was 14. I lost him in the quake.

All I wanted was to find his dead body and give him a decent burial. Indian choppers could have helped us do that. That was all we would have liked India to do for us.

Why did Musharraf say no? Even if he had let 10,000 Indian troops into this side of Line of Control, what could they have done to harm Pakistan's interests?

Musharraf has clearly never lost anyone close to him. He just doesn't know what it is like to lose the one you love.

For him, it is power that matters.

By saying no to an Indian offer, he may have felt strong but he has dealt a cruel blow to the people of Kashmir.

A (Farooq): Look, if you and I are brothers, we may have our good times and we may have bad ones.

Farooq Ahmed
Farooq says Pakistan should accept Indian aid
That doesn't stop us from being brothers, does it?

The same is the case with Pakistan and India. Yesterday, we were at war, today we are trying to be friends again.

Musharraf should understand this. The quake has proven beyond doubt that nothing in this world is permanent.

If humans and their thinking have no permanence, why must tension and enmity be treated as something written in stone.

I think it was silly of Musharraf to say no to the Indian offer of assistance.

BBC News website correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan responding to question from Jane, London, UK

Q: I assume Muzaffarabad will rebuild - but how do you feel the mountain villages will cope? Will they rebuild or will some of those villages simply cease to exist?

A: I have met many people here who are keen to go back to the villages.

Given that the loss of life has been the worst in the cities because of huge concrete structures coming down, urban people are more reluctant to rebuild in Muzaffarabad or Bagh than the rural folk.

The village folk are very simple people in this part of the world. They love their land.

I have seen places during my previous trips to this region - in times of tension between Indian and Pakistan - where villagers have stood firm despite constant bombardment and shelling from across the Line of Control.

At most, they leave their villages when the shelling becomes intense. But they return at the first opportunity and start rebuilding their houses.

I am least surprised at their behaviour. Rural Kashmir is hauntingly beautiful. It is not unlike the Lake Districts in the UK, only more rustic, less trimmed.

It is only by going into the rural areas that one understands why this place is called a heaven on earth.

Question from Paul Gregg, Bristol, UK to Ghulam Fatima, elderly housewife at 1700 local time (1200 GMT)

Q: I would like to hear how cold it gets at night now and what will it be like in a few months time? Also what prospects are there for better shelter before winter sets in?

Ghulam Fatima
Ghulam: "Everyone in my family has died"
A: I live up in the mountains. I have lived there all my life. It gets very cold, cold enough for water to turn into ice - sometimes even during day time.

This month and the next are the time when winter sets in.

I am a sturdy village woman. I used to tease my children about the cold. I used to tell them that they are too soft.

But now, without my family, I feel that I also may not be able to live with the cold.

Every single man, woman and child in my family has died.

I have three nephews who work in Pakistan. I don't know why they haven't shown up.

I have not been able to get a tent for myself because I am old and weak. Only the strong get through.

I once lined up for a tent but it was so rough that I felt my bones would break.

Even the army people here are not helping. I don't know what to do.

BBC News website correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan responding to question from Kellie C, Salem, US at 1700 local time (1200 GMT)

Q: Are there not any massive buildings that were not damaged that either food can be picked up or people could use as shelter?

A: None in Muzaffarabad save for the Parliament and the Supreme Court. Even they have been declared unsafe.

Of course, there is the prime minister's residence, as well as that of the president, but they are not large enough to accommodate so many affected people.

The only hope the survivors have is that people heed their call for tents and warm clothing so they can get through to the summer.

Question from Shafqat, Reading, England to Mohammed Akram, cloth merchant, Muzaffarabad at 1630 local time (1130 GMT)

Q: We hear a lot about how slow the government response has been in sending the aid. Do people appreciate the fact that it is a poor area with no adequate planning to deal with disaster of this kind?

A: I hate Pakistan and I hate the Pakistan army. Believe me, the BBC or for that matter any other organisation will never be able to broadcast the abuse for Pakistan that has filled my heart since the quake.

They are a poor country? Have you been to Lahore, Karachi, Faislabad, Islamabad? One house there is worth 10 or even 20 here.

And what do they do? They buy food with all their money, come here behaving as if they were kings and throw food at us as if we were animals.

They abuse us.

It is a theatre for them. They can keep their biscuits and let us keep our dignity. There is little they did for us before and little that they can do it now.

Pakistan is not poor of money, it is poor of the mind and the heart.

Question from Shehryar Sarwar, Ottawa, Canada to Hameeda Begum, housewife at 1530 local time (1030 GMT)

Q: Many of you have lost relatives and loved ones. If you were to name only one thing that could be done in your area to improve your lives after this earthquake, what would that be?

A: Take us out of here. This has become a death valley.

Since the big earthquake, there has not been a single day without several tremors.

Hameeda Begum
Hameeda wants to leave the valley
I am terrified of living here. I have nothing to build my house with.

Our clan had four families all of which are camped here - living like refugees.

But if I ever have a chance to rebuild my house, it will be as far away from this area as is possible.

We don't know when the earth will stop shaking.

The government is telling us it is over. We hear that and the next thing we know, the ground starts to shake again.

I appeal to all those who can help to take us out of this death valley, this has now become the devil's abode.

BBC correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan responding to question from DK Singh, Georgia, US at 1500 local time (1000 GMT)

Q: I would like to know if I want to come in person and bring food and water, what kind of permission do I need and from where I can get it? What kind of papers are needed to get permission?

A: Officials here say that the most urgent need is for orthopaedic implants and medicines.

Besides, housing is going to merge as a major issue in the coming weeks. The winter temperatures can be -10C (14F) in the valley and as low as -25C (-13F) in some of the more hilly parts.

In my opinion, you would be wasting your time bringing food and water, of which there is no dearth at the moment.

But there are fears that once the initial rush to help the quake victims is over, the government may relax and food assistance from the private sector may dry up.

In that case, with the onset of winter, things could become pretty desperate.

If you want to restrict your effort to food, it is best to wait a few weeks, make a fresh assessment of the situation and then bring in whatever you can.

There is absolutely no restriction and absolutely no permits required for bringing in relief supplies.

Alternately, you can devote your resources to providing liveable temporary shelter to these people.

Question from Sam Abraham, Kerala, India to Mohammed Rafiq Bandey, supplier AJK University, Muzaffarabad, 1320 local time (0820 GMT)

Q: I am curious to know what the government of Pakistan had done to improve the living conditions of its people living out there all these years?

A: You should have come to Muzaffarabad 20 years ago. There was nothing here.

Rafiq Bandey
Rafiq: "We are dependent on Pakistan for everything"
Everything that was here before it got destroyed in the quake is because of Pakistan.

We exist because Pakistan exists. Otherwise, what do we have? There is nothing that we can produce here. We are dependent on Pakistan for everything.

Muzaffarabad had an excellent network of roads, hospitals, schools. It was shaping up to be a city like any other in Pakistan.

And now that everything has been destroyed, it is again only Pakistan that is helping us.

Even the international aid has been organised by Pakistan. On our own, we are nothing.

BBC News website correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan responding to question from MR, Jersey City, US, 1300 local time (0800 GMT)

Q: Aside from the emergency supplies, how badly affected are the water resources and have many young children been rescued or survived?

A: There are fears that the Neelum and Jhelum rivers - the main sources of water for many Kashmiri cities including Muzaffarabad - may now be polluted because of the breakdown of the sewage infrastructure.

But as far as the people are concerned, there are plenty of streams coming down the hills all around.

They are not exactly inside Muzaffarabad but within a manageable distance.

Everywhere I have travelled after the quake, people have said that water is the least of their worries.

As for the number of children rescued, there are no accurate figures available.

There were reports of only about a dozen having been rescued but that would be the outside limit.

There were, however, a large number of children, especially in the rural areas, who were pulled out of the rubble by the locals long before help arrived.

BBC News website correspondent Aamer Ahmed Khan responding to Saurabh, US, 1300 local time (0800 GMT)

Q: Can you please explain the terrain of the area? How many people live in this region and what kind of development has happened there in the past 10 years?

A: The terrain can be extremely treacherous in most places. All of Pakistani-administered Kashmir is a vast hilly area with mountains as high as 10,000 feet at places.

Hundreds of villages in the area can only be reached on foot or on mules, which are a major mode of transport in rural areas.

Generally, the road network was passable for a developing country but now most of it has been destroyed.

Muzaffarabad valley has a population of about half a million people.

Some of the places in Pakistani-administered Kashmir are incredibly beautiful and in recent years there has been a lot of emphasis on promoting tourism.

For that purpose, the government had spent a lot of money on improving the roads.

The literacy rate here is among the highest in any region inside or controlled by Pakistan.

Question from Hasan Mahmood, Rawalpindi, Pakistan to Yasmeen Habib, housewife from Madina market, Muzaffarabad, 1250 local time (0750 GMT)

Q: Are you satisfied with the relief effort? Would you like to move to a safer area and would you like to receive government help to do that?

A: Ideally, I would like to rebuild my house right here in Muzaffarabad. But I have no idea how we are going to do it.

Yasmeen Habib
Yasmeen: "We have lost everything"
I have lost nine members of my family and seven others are in hospitals in Rawalpindi.

We have lost everything we owned. So far, we have heard nothing from the government - either from Kashmir or from Pakistan.

We don't know if they are going to help us or not.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Question from Shazad Ayub, Ottawa, Canada to AbubBakr Gondal, final year student at Jinnah hospital, Lahore and medical relief worker, 1230 local time (0730 GMT)

Q: Is the blood being donated in affected areas being screened properly for blood diseases like HIV and Hepatitis before being used?

AbubBakr Gondal
AbubBakr: "We need a mass sanitation drive"
A: The blood is not being collected here. Most of it is being brought from big cities and established blood banks in Pakistan. The blood is screened for HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

So there is no danger, because all donation centres in big cities are recognised by the government.

They all have screening kits and have taken special care to ensure that the donated blood is safe.

We do not need to worry about blood, but instead about a massive sanitisation drive which will clean this place up.

Question from Mashood, Ottawa, Canada to Nazimuddin Gillani, shopkeeper in Airport Kurdla area, Muzaffarabad, 1230 local time (0730 GMT)

Q: Which organisation has been most effective in providing aid to your local area and what type of aid have you started to receive?

A: There is neither an organisation nor any sense of organisation here. The strong rule and the weak get nothing.

There are thugs and hooligans all over the place. They are not even letting the relief trucks get here.

Nazimuddin Gillani with his family in tent, Muzaffarabad
Nazimuddin lost eight members of his family
They take everything and we are left with nothing.

We have received some water and food so far. Eight people in my family were killed by the quake.

You can see that most of my surviving family is ill. They need medicine.

There are 12 of us living here in one tent. What we need most of all are tents and clothes for the winter. Last night was freezing.

Aamer Ahmed Khan 1200 local time (0700 GMT)

Here in Muzaffarabad, people are no longer grouped around piles of rubble as they were for the first three days.

Clearly, all hopes of finding any more survivors are over.

At places, they have started returning to their businesses - if only to clear the debris.

Police and army are deployed all over the city in big numbers and that has helped control the law and order situation.

Overnight, there were reports of firing from parts of the city. Locals said it came from desperate businessmen trying to save what is left of their businesses from looters.

I am camped at the University Ground in Muzaffarabad. Some 2,000 refugees are housed here.

The lucky ones have tents, others have just pulled sheets of plastic over sticks to erect makeshift shelters.

I told them what I am doing here but they seem tired of the media now.

For the first three or four days, they had regarded the media as their ally. They thought that once their plight was highlighted, relief would be swift.

Now they are wiser.

Your comments:

It is unfortunate again that it takes a tragic event such as this to allow us to demonstrate that, regardless of race or religion, we are all basically the same. It is fanatics who use religion or race to try to divide us and this type of situation forces us to quickly push our petty squabbles about race or religion to one side and put them firmly into perspective.
Andy, Scotland

Do Kashmiri families divided by the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, have any way of communicating with their families on the other side of the border, so they can let their relatives know whether they have survived the earthquake and are safe and well?
Vanita Sharma, Oxford, UK

It is heart breaking to hear that the aid is not getting through to the needy people. I don't know how to get it through to the government or media to highlight this issue and make people aware of their responsibilities as a human to their desperate country fellows.
Zarar Naseer, Manchester, UK

Though many couldn't make it, I was glad to hear that 40 children were rescued under the rubble of the collapsed school. Whatever help has been offered to these people is too little. The Pakistani government should have provided all basic facilities to those people who are caught up in the remote areas. Meanwhile, the earthquake has taught a lesson to both India and Pakistan.
G Mohan Das, Bangalore, India

More must be done to help these people. Winter is coming and if the quake didn't kill the people the cold will. Aid must reach the remote towns or more will die.
Abdul Kadir, Birmingham, England

It has been reported that AJK University Muzaffarabad was badly affected by this earthquake and most of its students and teachers died or are still buried under the debris. Do you have any figure about how many students and how many teachers at AJK University Muzaffarabad died? Literally, we have lost one generation. We can rebuild institutes; we can rebuild universities and colleges and colleges but from where we will bring the students?
Saghir Anjum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I live in France and am collecting donations for the victims. I think financially Pakistan will manage to recover but my concern is only for the women and young girls left without shelter and on top of it without parents and husbands there. Regarding the already existing image of Pakistan to respect women, I wonder what these girls will become in their new life? What can the Pakistani community do to assure that they get a respectable life? Please help them get their respect back.
Bilal Hassan, Lyon France

It is a huge disaster for my homeland and my nation and on this occasion I am deeply shocked by this quake. On behalf of my countrymen I am very thankful to the nations who responded very quickly and helped my nation.
Amjad Raza Khalil, Riyadh KSA

There is hoarding of essential items like tents, blankets and basic medicines in many areas as the businessman's instinct to make a quick buck perhaps proved stronger than the instinct to save a human life. I can personally vouch for the fact that I could not find a single tent in Karachi to buy and donate to the relief effort. Not one! Transporters in the affected areas have hiked up fares. I wonder if the people in the calamity hit areas are aware of this characteristic in their countrymen. I think this is shameful to say the least. The absence of an official or government action to curb this kind of activity is equally shameful.
Khurram Baig, Karachi, Pakistan

The survivors should be relocated with sufficient facilities and the injured should get proper treatment. So far many countries offered help but everyone should contribute to this regardless of anything else, as we may be the next victims.
Abdul Jabbar, India


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