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Saturday, 8 October, 2005

Fearing aftershocks, Pakistan hospital treats wounded outdoors

Lying on makeshift beds on a hospital lawn in this northwestern Pakistani hill town, some screaming in pain, hundreds of men, women and children wait for help. But they have to stay there for now, because doctors say the monster earthquake that rumbled through the region early Saturday could have made the building dangerous.

"We feel it is unsafe to keep patients inside," Amir Shah, a senior doctor at the Ayub hospital in Abbotabad, told AFP.

Already at breaking point because of the flood of victims and a shortage of supplies, vilent aftershocks added to the worry.

"Our doctors and paramedical staff are scared to go in. The building has already developed cracks," Shah said.

Abbotabad is on the road towards the epicentre of the quake and is just miles (kilometres) from the worst affected area, where thousands of people are feared to have died. In the nearby districts of Mansehra and Malakand in North West Frontier Province police said the up to 600 had perished, while Pakistani-controlled Kashmir was thought to have suffered even bigger casualties. Some of the injured interviewed by AFP at Ayub hospital said they saw entire villages razed.

"I was working in the field close to a building when I felt the jolt and saw houses tumbling down to the ground," one of the injured, Wali Rehman, from Ugi village in North West Frontier Province, told AFP.

"I know my mother and my family have died," he said, weeping.

Another victim from near Balakot town in Kashmir said at least 200 homes in his village were flattened. "It was complete devastation all around," Jehanzib Khan told AFP.

As ambulances and vans continually ferried injured people to the hospital, the lawn became more crowded with patients. A hailstorm as night fell a hailstorm added to their discomfort. Dozens of people, mainly workers from the local Al-Khidmat private aid service, had gathered at the hospital, trying to arrange medicines, food and blood for the injured. They also brought food for victims to break their fast as the third day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan came to a close. But doctors feared they have only treated a fraction of the victims from the earthquake. Many affected areas have been cut off by landslides and it will take people hours or even days to get to Abbotabad.

"We need medicines, blood and equipment to treat the stream of wounded people," said doctor Nadeem Gohar.

Source: ReliefWeb
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