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Roofless nights in rain and wind

Uri/New Delhi, Oct. 15: After last weekend’s terrible battering, it’s now the slow, numbing torture of creeping winter.

The earthquake victims have been living under an open sky for the last seven days, unprotected from the biting winds and the cold rain as the mercury dips by the day. Every day passes in the hope that the wait for tents would end; every agonising night is passed in the knowledge that the wait has been prolonged.

As a relief truck pulled over at the bus stand near Gharkote village in Uri, residents crowded around it. Their faces fell when they saw the cargo: another load of food.

“Even a few days ago, we would have given an arm to get our hands on some foodstuff; but now we have enough stocks,” said schoolteacher Mohammad Hussain. “What we need is tents for shelter from the cold and the rain and snow, for a roof above our head.

“Without tents, life is impossible here. Those of us who survived the quake might now die of the cold. We shall have no option but to migrate.”

How many tents are required' Official figures vary between 36,000 and 50,000. The bad news is that despite “all-out efforts” by the Centre and the state government, the supply till now has only been about 11,000.

The Srinagar police control room gives the figures: only 5,338 tents, 50 shamiyanas and eight pandals had reached the state by Thursday. The army has managed to deliver another 6,000 tents.

It will take at least another 10 to 15 days to supply all the tents required, say officials in Delhi, even though production at the Kanpur defence factory has been jacked up and help is being sought from the states and industry.

Uri saw the season’s first snowfall days after the quake. “Temperatures have plummeted after the recent heavy rain,” shivered Mutwali Mir, headman of Nambla village near the Line of Control.

“We have supplied whatever tents were available with us. Something has to be done immediately to provide at least one tent to each family that lost its home,” a senior army officer said in Nambla.

“The demand for about 35,000 tents, along with about 2,000 portable cabins, would be met by next week,” said secretary (border management) in the Union home ministry, D.K. Sankaran.

Jammu and Kashmir resident commissioner Parvez Dewan said there are still six to nine villages around the LoC where relief is yet to reach.

From tomorrow, the government will start distributing Rs 40,000 ' as the first instalment ' to quake victims to help them rebuild their houses, Sankaran said. Each family can get up to Rs 1 lakh.

A senior state government officer in Srinagar said that even if they arrive, tents might not be of much help after a few weeks. Once winter reaches its peak, surviving inside a tent would be tough.

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