Relief troops, helicopter come under fire as toll reaches 515
28 September, 2013
RAWALPINDI: Militants on Friday again fired at a helicopter which was carrying relief goods for the earthquake victims in Mashkay area in Balochistan, as an aftershock of magnitude five hit the Awaran district on Friday. The epicentre of the quake was in Ormara and its depth was around 10 kilometres.
According to military sources, the rebels also fired at ground troops that were busy in rescue and relief in Buzdad area, but no loss of life and property was reported. However, a student in Awaran denied as propaganda reports that the helicopters came under fire from the rebels, saying that the security forces were using the claim as a pretext to deny rescue and relief work to the quake-affected people. He said that there was only one doctor attending to the injured. He was giving them painkillers as no other medicine is available. He also claimed that no X-ray facility was available to detect bone fractures.
A large number of journalists present in Awaran and Mashkey for coverage told that no rescue teams had arrived in the two areas or their surroundings, which have seen massive devastation. The journalists said they had seen some relief work by the rescue teams but that too was confined to Awaran township. They said only four or five individuals, all civilians, were seen undertaking rescue operation in Mashkey, while no government official was present there.
On Thursday, two rockets narrowly missed the helicopter carrying the general in charge of the National Disaster Management Agency and on Friday shots were fired at two helicopters carrying aid, the military said. General Officer Commanding Major General Samrez Salik reiterated that despite threats and attack on the rescue teams, army troops will continue helping the quake-affected people of remote parts of Balochistan. Talking to media during his visit to a health unit established by army in Awaran, he said there are some armed groups who are engaged in attacking the rescue teams, yet efforts to rescue the calamity-hit Baloch people would go on with same vigour.
"Army personnel from Karachi, Khuzdar and Quetta rushed to the quake-affected areas of the province soon after it hit," he said. Salik said the health unit established in Awaran has the capacity to admit 50 patients and provide them full medical facilities. To a question, he admitted that armed men were resisting the army's efforts to help the disaster-hit people of Awaran district.
The death toll from the earthquake has reached 515, a provincial official said on Friday, as insurgent attacks threaten relief efforts and survivors complain of lack of shelter from the scorching sun. Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob gave the updated death toll as he toured Awaran. Bodies were still being discovered from houses whose mud walls and wooden roof beams had collapsed. "My daughter was killed when my house collapsed. I was also inside my house but managed to run out," said 70-year-old Gul Jan. "We are sitting under the scorching sun and need shelter."
In Labash, a village near Awaran, more than half of the 3,000 houses have collapsed and those still standing have wide cracks. "Everywhere we go people are asking for tents," legislator Abdul Qadeer Baloch said. The arid area is also a stronghold of separatist insurgents. "There is a law and order situation here and other hurdles but despite everything, we will get to every last person," said Lt Gen Nasir Janjua, the highest ranking military official in the province. Aid must travel by pitted roads that cut through mountains held by the insurgents.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) revealed that a total of ten army helicopters and 1,200 troops are involved in the relief and rescue activities in the quake-affected regions of Balochistan. Ten army helicopters are participating in rescue operations and 17 sorties were flown to the affected areas. As many as 500 wounded were evacuated and treated from different areas of Mushkey and Awaran.