The Himalayan winter that followed the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 resulted in millions of survivors left facing the danger of freezing to death in tents. Severe cold waves hit the affected areas, nighttime temperatures fell below zero degrees Celsius and heavy snow had fallen. Minus-10 degrees Celsius had been recorded in Balakot and Muzaffarabad, two of the worst hit towns in Northern Pakistan. Temperatures were even colder in the mountain villages where many of the earthquake survivors were still living.
Pakistan's Meteorological Agency had been reporting for months of a freezing winter which could cause a second disaster exceeding that of the initial earthquake. Millions of people in Northern Pakistan were affected by the 7.6 MW earthquake. At least 87,000 casualties were reported, leaving 3 million people homeless, many were living in temporary shelter in remote mountain villages which were cut off from relief supplies.
CARE International warned on January 5, 2006: "The harsh Himalayan winter is expected to be even worse than usual this year, creating fears of another wave of deaths from hypothermia, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, particularly among children, among those with no or inadequate shelter and poor sanitary conditions."
It added that there were not enough winterised tents to go around, so survivors had begun moving south in search of warmer weather. "Those most at risk from the extreme cold are the estimated 1.5 million people who haven’t found shelter...For many of them, the prospects of finding properly winterised shelter are running out."
MSF reported on January 11, 2006: "Due to the stormy weather large numbers of tents are leaking or collapsed under the weight of the falling snow, exposing the population even more to the cold, rain, mud, and snow. Inadequate shelter in the more remote regions can result in more displacement as people seek better conditions in the camps in the valleys, increasing pressure on already insufficient facilities."
Hundreds of thousands of tents were being distributed to the survivors but they could not keep out the freezing conditions of the Himalayan winter. Arctic shelter was needed to keep out the cold, withstand the freezing winds and would not collapse under the weight of the snow, some places were seeing eight feet of snowfall, in those conditions the need to have heat inside the tent would of saved lives.
Every camp I visited, whether it was in the mountains or the towns were affected by the cold temperatures, children suffered from severe cases of pneumonia and bronchitis. Gastroenteritis had broken out in many of the camps because they lacked proper sanitation. Tents distributed by aid agencies were not able to cope with the severe Himalayan winter; eight years later the same situation has happened to Syrian refugees in Lebanon.