The refugee town of Kamsar. Every building destroyed.
Summer tents for subzero temperatures.
No schools operating.
The race to gather enough winter firewood.
Kamsar had been a very poor yet bustling town perched precariously on the edge of the valley. It had several hundred houses, 3 schools and a mosque. When the earthquake struck, much of the town (including two of the schools) fell into the valley below. At 8.50 in the morning school was halfway into its first lesson so the death rate amongst the town’s children was painfully high. Many children do not attend classes in the makeshift outdoor school. Some are required to help their families prepare for the winter or care for injured relatives. In other cases parents fear that they may never see their children again if they let them attend classes. The tremors and aftershocks are a regular occurrence in this area causing panic and triggering painful memories for those who experience them.
The destruction of this town and the surrounding area is total. The geography has changed to the extent that mountains have been reduced to chalky landslides that will leave a legacy of blocked roads and buried buildings for years to come. Every building that we see has been completely flattened. In some places it’s hard to determine where the streets of the refugee town once were. Some chairs and a table have set up as a teahouse where elderly members of the community keep a watchful eye on children playing nearby. The other addition aside from the rows of tents is a cemetery with row upon row of brand new graves. Many bodies remain buried or were washed away by the river at the base of the valley. There is still no fresh running water here with locals having to travel miles on foot to collect it. The main task occupying most is gathering firewood for the approaching winter, which is on everyone’s mind. Fortunately with so many collapsed buildings wood is plentiful. No reconstruction will begin in earnest until the spring.
As with all our visits we are welcome by the locals, thanked for our interest and offered tea. To be warmly greeted and catered for by people who have lost everything is a very humbling experience. Some of our hosts tell us about the town’s history and talk of the future. Others just want to forget it all for ten minutes and discuss the cricket. Despite everything they are still fiercely proud of the sound defeat that Pakistan has inflicted on England a hundred miles away in Rawalpindi.
Pictures © contact email for free use.