Disaster experts travelling to northern Pakistan and Afghanistan following the earthquake are now working alongside local communities to find out where help is needed.

Teams from Afghanistan and Pakistan travelled either by plane or car to get to the remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan after the earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, struck at around 2.30pm local time on Monday, October 26.

Tents and plastic sheets were stored in Pakistan as part of Islamic Relief's emergency stock.

Tents and plastic sheets were stored in Pakistan as part of Islamic Relief’s emergency stock.

Teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan are assessing needs and food, tents and plastic sheets are en route to the worst affected areas. Access remains an issue and experts are working around the clock to get help where it is needed most.

Programme teams arriving in Shangla, in Pakistan, found villages that had been heavily decimated by the earthquake tremors.

Shifa ul Mulk, 28, works as a labourer and was on his way to Quetta, which is around 900km (about 550 miles) away from his village Pir Abad when the earthquake occurred. He hurried back to check on his family, including his five children.

He said: “I heard that my house had been destroyed so went back to the village to find out if my family was safe. Thankfully, they are all okay, because they were out of the house, working in the fields.”

His family is one of 300 from the village who have lost their home. Another 500 homes have been damaged. There are around 4,000 families living in the village, and he and his family are now living with a neighbour.

Three people in the village died, and eight were injured. A large number of livestock were killed by falling rubble and the water supply was also damaged.

Winter is coming

Adnan Cheema, Islamic Relief’s country director for Pakistan, said: “This earthquake has occurred just as winter is beginning. In the remote mountainous areas which have been badly affected, temperatures tend to fall below freezing in mid-November, and are accompanied by heavy snowfall in December and January, and perhaps as early as November. This year winter has started early with some areas already receiving their first snow fall. This is the reality that people in north and north western Pakistan are facing, and now many of them have lost their homes. It is impossible to build proper shelters during the winter, when metres of snow cover the ground. People in Pakistan are resilient and hard-working; but we need more support to help them stay safe, warm and dry this winter.”

Raja Rizwan Ashfaq, Islamic Relief’s country director of Afghanistan, said: “Access is very difficult. The area of Badakhshan has had snowfall and lots of landslides and some rural areas are politically insecure. At the moment we are trying to get more information, but we believe 7,000 houses have been completely destroyed in the most rural areas. We expect this number to rise significantly as more and more information comes in.

“In Nanghar, the team is already assessing needs as part of a United Nations cluster system. The most urgent items are likely to be food, non-food items and shelter. We plan to distribute non-food items in the next few days.”

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