Kyrgyzstan: Earthquake survivors battle cold snap
"It is extremely cold, particularly in mountain villages where the temperature drops to minus 20. All affected people want to get back to their houses or start reconstructing them as soon as possible [but] they cannot do it now because it is too cold," Aigul Atakanova, head of the disaster management department of the Kyrgyz Red Crescent Society (KRCS), told IRIN from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on 30 January.
The 5.6 degrees (Richter scale) earthquake destroyed five residential buildings and severely damaged 1,092 homes, rendering at least 900 families (about 4,500 to 5,400 people) homeless, according to the Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Ministry.
The epicentre was about 30km from Osh in the Ferghana Valley, Kyrgyzstan's second largest city.
"About 600 families in affected villages are living in tents in their yards," Ministry spokesman Almazbek Abdraimov told IRIN. He said 121 affected families in Kara-Suu District were currently staying in a kindergarten. Fifty-three other families were being accommodated at a university hostel in Osh. In Nookat District, 112 families had moved in with their relatives or were staying in temporary shelters. Alai District was also affected, he added.
"Right after the earthquake, we provided the affected people with initial relief items. Then we appealed to international organisations and donors for help and received assistance from them, including winterised tents, as we didn't have them in stock. We also received heaters; and some new electricity transformers were brought in to replace ones which had broken down," Abdraimov said.
More coal needed
"We provided the affected people with coal as well because it is extremely cold, particularly in the mountain villages. It is difficult for people to cope in this extreme weather, so any assistance in terms of coal will be welcomed," Abdraimov said.
An aid worker who recently visited several affected villages but did not want to be identified said that although the survivors had been provided with fuel, many were running low due to the unusually cold weather. "A sack of coal, which costs 250 [Kyrgyz] soms [about US$7], lasts only two to three days in this weather; people cannot afford it. They were poor before the disaster and the quake has ruined their livelihoods," the aid worker said.
"The affected communities were provided with heaters that run on kerosene, but it is almost impossible to get kerosene in Osh Province," the KRCS's Atakanova said, adding that the government had provided extra coal which, however, was insufficient for their needs. "Many villagers are running low and they need more fuel to keep them warm in the extreme cold."
"It is mainly men who are staying in the tents put up in their yards as they don't want to abandon their damaged houses and belongings, whereas the women and children are staying with their relatives," the KRCS official said.
According to a World Bank report in September 2007, 43.1 percent of Kyrgyzstan's 5.1 million people lived in poverty in 2005. About 11 percent were deemed to be living in extreme poverty.
"Poverty" here was determined on the basis of food and non-food consumption patterns of the lower income group of the Kyrgyz population, according to the UN in Kyrgyzstan. It is higher in rural areas (with 51 percent of the rural population in this category) compared to urban areas (30 percent). About three-quarters of people below the national poverty line live in rural areas, according to the World Bank report.
According to the Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee, the poverty line in 2006 was about US$20 per month.
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