Pakistan: rescue and relief operations underway

By October 28, 2015
(Photo courtesy FB/AzherKaleem)

(Photo courtesy FB/AzherKaleem)

Pakistan (MNN) — There are two different sides of the story emerging from the massive earthquake that hit Central Asia Monday.

On the one hand, the epicenter hit a sparsely-populated part of Afghanistan, where damage was somewhat limited (although due to the remoteness, those who were affected will be very hard to reach).

On the other hand, the area affected in Pakistan resulted in a very different picture.

At this point, numbers are changing from moment to moment. Bruce Allen with Forgotten Missionaries International says from the early reports he’s getting from church partners, “Aside from the death toll, the injuries are staggering. The fact that so many families are being displaced at this time of year is really critical.” Rescue workers were trying to find people who were trapped under piles of rubble, and officials are warning that the toll will continue rising by hundreds. The disaster destroyed thousands of homes, triggered landslides and stampedes, and knocked out communication lines.

The initial quake was followed by seven aftershocks, measuring as high as magnitude 4.8, according to the United States Geological Survey. It means that thousands spent the night outdoors because they were reluctant to go back inside. The problem, says Allen, is that ”usually snowfall doesn’t start until December in this region; however, it had started last week.” That means no relief from exposure, and no shelter. ”They’re spending their days and nights in freezing temperatures outside, and snow is falling.”

(Photo courtesy Facebook/AzherKaleem)

(Photo courtesy Facebook/AzherKaleem)

Survivors will need protection from the elements, food, and clean water, and hygiene essentials such as soap. Aid agencies said the extent of the damage should become clearer by mid-week. Then, says Allen,”The Pakistani government kind of dismissed international assistance, saying, ‘Oh no! We can handle it.’” He goes on to explain that “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said a relief package would be announced after the damage is assessed, but they’re having difficulty getting in even assessing it.”

Fear is a normal part of the tableau, but fearful memories heighten anxiety. Some of the survivors are remembering the earthquake that struck northern Pakistan 08 October, 2005. It flattened a town called Balakot. The eventual death toll from the districts around the town was put at 73,000.

This time around, “There are landslides in the areas where, if it hasn’t been snowing, it has been raining,” Allen says, adding that it’s making it tough to assess, let alone mount a recovery or relief response. Add to that the concern about the Taliban’s presence in the region. ”It’s an unstable security situation for international workers, so relief group efforts are currently hindered as of this morning,” although Allen pauses a moment sharing what he just learned from their partners. “The Taliban has said that they will not get in the way of aid workers.”

(Photo courtesy Facebook/AzherKaleem)

(Photo courtesy Facebook/AzherKaleem)

Since outside international help is still a question mark, FMI won’t be sitting around waiting. There are lives at stake. They’ve got boots on the ground since they work exclusively with indigenous partners. Those partners are ready to help, but they need the resources to do it. Allen says $50 provides blankets and warm clothes for a small family. $100 provides warm clothes, blankets, and a week’s worth of food for a family of four.

When someone who is in this crisis gets help from someone who is also coping with loss, the questions start: “‘Why are you doing this? How can you do this?'” Allen says, “Our folks who have been trained in evangelism and discipleship are so prompt and courageous to share with people and reach out and then say, ‘We do this in the name of Jesus because of what He has done for us.'”

There’s much more to come. This story will be unfolding for days. As the details come in, Allen asks for two things. The first is obvious: they need funds to help respond to the survivors’ needs. The second is prayer. There are safety issues, security issues, opportunities, and all of it comes under the umbrella of  “physically and emotionally taxing.”

Click here to see what FMI does in Pakistan.

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