Pakistan army builds 30,000 shelters as cold sets in on Kashmir quake zone

Pakistani soldiers have built 30,000 shelters for survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan last month, the military said Friday.

Using corrugated iron sheets, the army is constructing about 5,000 shelters for quake survivors each day, the military said in a statement, while thousands in quake-affected areas have built shelters with the assistance of aid agencies, soldiers and volunteers.

Still, aid agencies are warning that a lack of food and shelter, combined with increasingly harsh winter conditions, could cause a second wave of deaths for victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake. At least eight people are known to have died since the onset of the brutal Himalayan winter, and hundreds stream into hospitals every day for cold-related ailments such as pneumonia.

Doctors say the situation could worsen in the coming weeks if arrangements are not made quickly to provide adequate shelters for the estimated 3.5 million people who lost their homes in the 7.6-magnitude quake. On Thursday, a moderate aftershock was felt in northwestern Pakistan, Islamabad and some areas of Kashmir, according to Pakistan's meteorological department. The weather was also deteriorating rapidly.

Strong winds and colder-than-normal, subfreezing temperatures were forecast again for Friday. The cold was expected to get particularly harsh in the higher mountain villages. Some roads have been closed and others declared unsafe. Rain and snow have also hampered aid operations.

Mazhar Rashid Abbasi, an official with the Pakistani charity al-Khidmat Foundation, said it badly needs funds to winterize the nine tent camps that it is managing for quake victims in Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan has said the onset of winter is severely slowing relief operations. Officials also are seeking to keep the focus on the immediate needs of survivors instead of shifting to long-term reconstruction, the AP reports.

Pakistan's government, meanwhile, thanked NATO for its help, but said it can wrap up its relief operations in January, when its 90-day mandate expires. A.M.

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