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Harsh weather hits Pakistani quake survivors

Written by: Staff
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MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, Dec 4 (Reuters) Snow fell in northern Pakistan today where hundreds of thousands of survivors of a major earthquake last year are living in makeshift shelters and a doctor said six infants had died.

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake on October 8 last year killed more than 73,000 people in Pakistan and many survivors are beginning a second winter in corrugated-iron shelters.

The first severe weather of the winter began at the weekend with snow blanketing the mountains and freezing rain falling in valleys across the region.

A doctor visiting a village near the epicentre of the quake said six infants suffering from pneumonia and acute diarrhoea had died there since Saturday.

''It would be premature to call it an epidemic but obviously the ratio is alarming. It's a small village,'' said the doctor, Abdul Waheed, speaking by telephone from the village of Thaniyan, northwest of the region's main town, Muzaffarabad.

Waheed, who is working with the International Organisation of Migration aid agency, said the heavy rain appeared to have led to contamination of water in the village.

That, plus the cold, had led to the deaths of the children, he said.

A Reuters photographer heading up into the mountains on Monday said he saw many people coming down, some carrying children, bound for Muzaffarabad.

The Pakistani military, the United Nations and the Red Cross mounted a major relief effort after the quake last year that prevented a second wave of death over the winter.

But last winter was unusually mild.

The weather is expected to be more harsh this winter but aid agencies say they are ready to help the survivors.

''We are pretty much ready for the winter. We have pre-positioned our food supplies,'' said Amjad Jamal, a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme.

''Of course, there are always problems during the winter ...

Logistically it is a problem. We can't use our trucks and so have to rely on more costly helicopters, he said.

The bad weather was due to last another two or three days, the meteorological department said.

REUTERS SSC ND1816

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