NATO helping Pakistanis endure cold winter
NATO engineers have built 48 winter shelters for victims of the South Asian earthquake since mid-December and are working to build more as cold weather becomes a huge problem for refugees.
More than 80,000 people were killed in the Oct. 8 quake, and some 2 million survivors are now living in tents or makeshift shelters in refugee camps, according to aid agencies.
The Multinational Engineer Battalion of NATO’s Land Component Command, led by British troops from the 59 Independent Engineers unit, have been working high in the Kashmir mountains in heavy snows.
“The winter conditions are really starting to bite now. It is not pleasant to be working and living in this sort of weather, but that is why we are here. All the men are trained and know how to cope in these conditions,” Lt. David Stead, of the 59 Independent Engineers was quoted as saying in a NATO news release.
The next big project for the team is to combine a series of winter shelters into a school for 250 girls, officials said.
The NATO engineer battalion has been deployed to Pakistan since the beginning of December, according to Antonio Jose Rodrigues, a spokesman for the NATO Disaster Relief Team.
Also Wednesday, relief helicopters were back in the air after being grounded for several days by bad weather. Since Saturday, rain and snow has hit both the mountaintops where isolated survivors are staying and the tent cities where other refugees have gathered.
Freezing temperatures and bad weather have hampered relief efforts in recent weeks, and forecasters say another cold spell is on its way. Temperatures over the next several weeks are expected to fall as low as 6 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Pakistan’s meteorological service.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said this week that more than 35 children have died of pneumonia in the past week, according to The Associated Press. For weeks, aid agencies have been saying that cold weather and inadequate shelter could lead to a second wave of deaths in the winter months.