| A girl grieves at a grave in Kamsar, north of Muzaffarabad. (Reuters)
Muzaffarabad (Pakistan), Nov. 5 (Reuters): Snow is expected in Pakistan’s earthquake zone next week, the meteorological office said today, as aid agencies struggle to prevent a surge in pneumonia causing a second wave of deaths.
Four weeks after the 7.6 magnitude quake flattened towns and villages over a wide area of Pakistan Kashmir and North West Frontier Province on October 8, the official death toll stood at over 73,000, with 1,300 more killed in Kashmir.
Pakistan says the toll could rise and the UN fears a second wave of deaths as cold weather hits the three million left homeless by the disaster, some of whom remain without help high in the mountains.
The meteorological office said widespread showers were expected in the disaster zone from next Thursday, which would fall as snow over 1,500 metres by next weekend.
The World Health Organisation said the largest number of patients being brought into clinics were already those suffering from acute respiratory infections like pneumonia.
“It will be a problem because if people are living in cold weather with inadequate food supplies they are more susceptible to illness,” spokeswoman Rachel Lavy said.
Despite the death toll and dangers posed by a winter in which temperatures are expected to plummet to minus 20 degrees Celsius , the world has been slow to respond. The UN sought $550 million for emergency work, but has received only $135 million so far.
With aid budgets drained by disasters elsewhere and appeals falling on deaf ears, the UN now had to tailor its quake relief to the money available, said spokeswoman Amanda Pitt. “We have to decide what we can do over next four weeks with the money we have got,” she said, “but underfunding will obviously impact the numbers of people we can reach.”
“We are very worried there could be another wave of deaths, because of disease, cold, lack of shelter and unsafe water.”
President Pervez Musharraf has expressed frustration that the world had donated more to last year’s Asian tsunami, saying this was because western tourists had been caught up in it.
The UN welcomed his decision yesterday to postpone a purchase of F-16 warplanes from the US to free up more funds for emergency relief, but stressed this did not solve a funding crisis.
“We are meeting day and night around the world to secure more resources,” UN emergency coordinator Jan Vandemoortele said. “It is not less urgent, the job is not done.”
Last weekend India and Pakistan agreed to open the military ceasefire line dividing the territory to aid and survivors from Monday.
However, an Indian foreign ministry statement said only one of the five crossing points agreed would be ready to open on Monday, another on Wednesday and a third on Thursday.
With many roads still blocked by landslides, emergency work has relied on helicopters, but the UN has said its fleet could be grounded soon by the lack of funds.