Post-quake disaster averted

2006-03-08 22:59
Islamabad - The threat of a second wave of winter deaths after the devastating South Asian earthquake five months ago has been averted, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Aid agencies were now preparing to help survivors return to their homes as the emergency phase neared its end and recovery and reconstruction efforts began, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN deputy humanitarian co-ordinator.

"There has been no second wave of deaths, no massive population movement down the mountains, no severe malnutrition and no outbreak of epidemics," he told reporters at a news conference marking five months since the disaster.

The massive 7.6-magnitude October 8 earthquake killed more than 73 000 people and left nearly three million homeless in Pakistani Kashmir and North West Frontier Province.

About 1 300 also died in Indian Kashmir.

"The major challenges were keeping relief operations going until the end of this month; improving sanitation, especially in the smaller camps; and preparing for the voluntary return of internally displaced people," he said.

Compensation

"People have already started returning and the second (compensation) instalment of 75 000 rupees ($1 250) by the government of Pakistan will be a major pull factor for people to go back to their places of origin," McGoldrick said.

The UN would require a minimum of five to six helicopters to transport food and medical aid until late September as continuing landslides are expected to block some roads, he said.

"There will be continued risk of landslides as the snow starts to melt in the spring and even more so later in the year when the monsoon season sets in," McGoldrick said.

The UN has received $335m of a $550m appeal made in mid-October, while Pakistan has received aid pledges of more than $6bn, of which $2bn is in the form of grants.

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