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Rain hits relief work in Uri
Sridhar K. Chari
Tribune News Service

Uri, October 16
Heavy rains from Saturday night have brought relief operations to a standstill in this earthquake-affected area near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Incredible misery is being heaped upon the hapless quake victims as the rains left them exposed to extremely cold and wet conditions.

Even those lucky enough to have tents struggled to cope as rainwater entered their tents. Sleep was hard to come by, and cooking was next to impossible, as the rains revisited the area after four days of good weather.

Even as they suffered, victims in the lower villages, where accessibility was not an issue, spared a thought for those on the mountain slopes in the higher reaches.

“Imagine their plight. Children and even adults are going to start dying, if tents and warm clothing are not given to them”.

The only heartening sight was that of dozens of vehicles loaded with relief heading towards Uri by noon.

But there is a general sense of a large delivery gap that is unlikely to be bridged. Continued rains will make remote areas even more inaccessible due to landslides and washed out mountain roads. “The gap is 99 per cent”, declares Shakeel Ahmed Bakshi, chairman of the Islamic Students League, as he sits huddled along with other volunteers in a relief tent near Julla, about 10 kms from Kaman post in Uri on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.

He is extremely bitter about the fact that private relief vehicles are not allowed to deliver their goods to the victims directly. “The police have directed that they be stopped at a central place, from which dispatch would be coordinated. There is no shortage of resources. This ban on direct delivery should go. And there should be more coordination”.

Some coordination was witnessed at the Pir Panjal Convoy Ground near Rampur, where private relief vehicles were being given a slip indicating just where they should take their supplies.

Ahead of Julla, the highway is strewn with rocks and boulders loosened by the rain from the soils above. Even hardened Army jawans run quickly across such stretches, with a wary eye to the landmass above.

The sudden sound of a huge landslide in the slopes across the Jhelum makes everyone startle. A survivor who has trekked down from a mountain village warms his hands over a little bonfire that the jawans have got going under a wrecked bus shelter.

It was in just such a landslide, set off by a 4.5 Richter tremour on Friday morning, near Kaman post, that a woman died. She was in fact looking for her child’s body under quake rubble, and had enlisted the help of Army personnel with sniffer dogs.

A falling boulder took her along down to the Jhelum. Bakshi has formed an initiative titled Athroot, “Helping Hand”, and he makes it very clear what is required.

“There is no tent culture here. What these people need is heavy canvas and thermacot rolls which will protect them from the weather. It is going to get very cold here very soon.

“If one talks about the three stages of rescue, relief, and rehabilitation, one must say that rescue was non-existent here, relief poor, and they are already talking about rehabilitation when they are in a position to rehabilitate”.

Almost as if to vindicate what he is saying, a BSF man drops by his tent to pick up some sorely needed blankets — for the BSF, not the victims. “We have also helped the Army in this way”, say volunteers. Relief workers are now worried about two impending developments, which should strictly not impact on the relief and rehabilitation, but is widely expected to.

Under the coalition arrangement, PDP Chief Minister Mufti Muhammed Sayeed has to make way for a Congress Chief Minister, the original date for which was in November. In some sense, that makes his a lame duck administration.


Hindus, Muslims united in misery

Datta Mandir is a 1000-year-old protected monument assigned to the Avantivarman dynasty, at Mohura, about 10 km before Uri town on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway.

There were 12 houses around the Mandir, housing eight Muslim and four Hindu Pandit families. The houses suffered quake damage, and the settlement’s population of about 68, including 18 Hindus, are now housed in small tents supplied to them by the Army.

Rainwater has entered their child-sized tents, and they struggle to keep the water out. There are about 20 odd children, and some peep out, willing to smile in spite of the cold and wetness.

Says Meera Devi: “We urgently need more help. The Army did give us something. So far, we have not got anything from the civil government. Since we are by the highway, we keep getting something, but it is nowhere near enough”.

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