“Throughout the night, we were kept awake by the sound of rain pounding onto the tents. It made us think of those for whom this is a daily reality; those still sleeping out in the open one month after the disaster.
After a restless night the team ventured out to the camp before sunrise to catch a glimpse of what life was like for the survivors. There, we met a woman called Abida Bibi, who was a refugee several years ago when she fled the conflict in Kashmir. Today she is a refugee once again.
With tears in her eyes, she clutches a picture of a young lady.
‘This is a picture of my eldest daughter, Anisa. She is holding up a trophy she won at school. We do not know where her body is.
‘They found the body of a girl in Islamabad washed up in the river, it might be her but who knows? So many people fell in the river. If only we could find her body, maybe that would give us some peace of mind. I never had a chance to bury her properly.'
Swallowed by the Earth
Describing the frightening scenes of the earthquake, Abida says, ‘Nothing like this has ever happened before. None of our forefathers warned us that something like this could happen.
‘‘We are still finding the bodies of our relatives, even a month after the earthquake. There are many that we haven’t been able to find.'
‘‘We dig up the ground and find their body parts: hands, feet and heads. Many fell into the river.’
Abida described how the men folk tried to save the women and children as the ground opened up, but there was little they could do.
‘‘No one could help anyone else. People were literally being swallowed by the earth, then it would shake again and they would be spat out of it. How can we describe to you what we saw?’
Help finally arriving
The sheer scale of the disaster has meant that for many people, aid has been slow to arrive. Despite everything, survivors like Abida Bibi are as concerned about others as they are about themselves.
‘‘We spent many days without blankets or tents. But it is not the fault of any organisation or government. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left with nothing, how can they take care of everyone quickly? We aren't the only ones who have suffered loss'.
‘We are being helped, we get food and water, and Islamic Relief has given us a tent. There are many people who still sleep underneath the sky.’
As we prepare to leave her tent to visit other families in the mountains, she apologises that there is nothing she can offer us to eat; instead, she offers us a cup of tea. We refuse politely.
With another apology, Abida leaves one last imprint on our hearts, ‘I'm sorry we have made this problem for you and that you have to come here to help us.
‘Tell the people who donated that they have helped us a lot. We have nothing to give back to them, we have nothing at all, but we thank you very much for coming here and helping us however you can.’