terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Muzaffarabad, Part 4

It's almost noon before someone remembers and sends the vehicle back for me. In the meantime, I help with the reconfiguration of the Singapore enclave - two eight-man tents go up (with much difficulty - not because we're idiots at setting up tents in the field, rather, for a place that was supposed to have been used for a soccer field, there are plenty of rocks just beneath the surface which don't help the knocking in of the tent pegs; I'd hate to be playing on this field and be on the end of bad tackle). The weather turns again. The morning sun burns away whatever chills we have had from the night before.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

And continues burning. By eleven, it's blazing hot and threatening to become hotter.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

The vehicle returns and I finally get to do what I'd been sent for.

The first stop, however, was the Red Cross camp, situated in another stadium (seems like the safest places in these earthquake-hit places) at another part of Muzaffarabad. This afforded me the opportunity to have a look at the city in daylight.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

Not pretty.

It might have been once, in a rustic sort of way. But the temblor on October 8 changed that. Locals look as lost as they did when we were pulling in the day before. Many stand around the fallen ruins of their homes, shops and workplaces, unable to do anything for the lack of heavy machinery. In Nias, by the time I'd joined the relief efforts, there were already bulldozers and cranes in place and most bodies have already been cleared. Here, it's a different story.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

Some people are picking through the remains of buildings permeated by the smell of decay. Most of the time, however, locals stand by doing nothing. It is hauntingly familiar: it was the same in Meulaboh and Nias. Helplessness, a sense of loss and the inability to do anything but remain in shock.

We pull into a different IDP near the Red Cross camp and the doctors visit the nearby hospital. I take a walk around the area. Most of the survivors here look a little more sullen; there are few smiles from them, save for a few children, whose play seems a little louder in the silence of the area.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

A few pose for the camera willingly as I move around them, but the sense of loss is palpable among the adults as I moved among the tents. An older man, a truck driver it seems, is the only one to break into a smile as I gestured at him.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

The trip to the Red Cross camp is a bust. We're checked over and over again by the security guard at the entrance and by IRC personnel. The doctor we're looking for is busy and doesn't come out of the tents in the time we're there. We leave after twenty minutes.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

On the way back, more children approach us, many holding out hands begging for food, water and, in some cases, money. We try to ignore them as best we could and trudge wearily to the waiting vehicle. The weather has become increasingly hot - by the time we get to the minibus, we're stripped down to just one layer. Government agencies provide water in the form of watering trucks, but much of the water goes to the IRC.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

When we get to the vehicle, the driver is with a little girl, who's drinking out of one of our bottles of water. Her mother joins her shortly and begs for more bottles which we don't have. We hand over the half-empty bottle to them and drive away.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

Related Links:
Flickr Photoset

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9


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