Deadly pneumonia hits Pakistan

2005-11-29 11:41
Muzaffarabad - Pneumonia is spreading amongst cold and hungry children who survived Pakistan's giant earthquake, killing two and affecting hundreds more as the Himalayan winter sweeps in, said officials on Tuesday.

The United Nations begged the international community for extra help as it raced against time to save millions of people threatened by disease and hypothermia because of the sudden change in the weather.

Some snow fell in mountain villages overnight and temperatures fell below freezing throughout the disaster zone, threatening to bring about a second wave of deaths that aid agencies had long warned of.

'Pneumonia spreads among children'

District health officer in Muzaffarabad, Sardar Mahmood Khan, said: "According to data received from different places, pneumonia has spread among children."

"We are receiving hundreds of cases in different areas."

The October 8 quake killed more than 74 000 people in Pakistan and India, but the biggest fears had been for the 3.5m survivors left homeless by the disaster.

The United Nations said late on Monday that two children - a three-month-old boy and a young girl - had died of suspected pneumonia after the first snowfall of the winter in northern Pakistan and Kashmir at the weekend.

Vulnerable people

Andrew MacLeod, UN emergency operations chief in Pakistan, said: "We need ongoing and additional support in the next few days so we could reach as many of the remaining vulnerable people as possible."

He said most of the $5.8bn pledged by donors at a conference on November 19 was for long-term rebuilding, while a $550m UN appeal for immediate aid remained less than half-funded.

MacLeod said: "Winter and nature are reminding us: 'Concentrate on relief in order to save lives, reconstruct later'."

MacLeod said the young girl died from suspected pneumonia on Monday as her father carried her from the remote village of Kumi in Pakistan to the destroyed town of Balakot, 20km away.

Relief operations

MacLeod added that the three-month-old boy died of pneumonia on the same day after he was brought to a hospital in Muzaffarabad from the nearby Neelum Valley.

The UN said snow and rain had also "severely hampered" its helicopter and truck relief operations.

Major Farooq Nasir, the army's relief operations spokesperson in Muzaffarabad, said international and Pakistani choppers were flying again on Tuesday after they were grounded throughout Sunday and on Monday morning.

The Pakistani meteorological department said isolated light rain and snow were set to continue in the most mountainous parts of the quake zone until Tuesday evening and the weather was expected to improve on Wednesday morning.

It said but, the wet spell would likely be replaced by a cold wave, during which daytime temperatures would be less than normal and temperatures at night would plummet below freezing.

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