Young make up half all patients

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The Independent Online

One student was dug from the rubble of his classroom by a teacher. Another had slept late while hundreds of his classmates died. Those were the lucky ones, the ones who can tell their stories.

When the roofs and the walls came down in the massive earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan, more often than not they fell on children.

At the hospital here, bed after bed holds a small, crumpled body, some tended to by a parent, some all alone. Adults were injured too, but doctors here said the young make up half their patients.

Taufeeq Hussain, 10, holds himself very still, lying on a thin vinyl mattress without sheets and a rough blanket pulled across the bandages that crisscross his stomach. "I was studying in the classroom. It was first period," he said, his voice high and quiet. "Suddenly, the earthquake jolted the school. The roof and all the walls collapsed on all the students." He was trapped under the plaster and the stone, but he could yell, and he did, again and again, without stopping. Finally, digging began - and he was rescued by one of his teachers.

Most of the 400 students at his school in Balakot were trapped by the debris, and many died.

Children suffered more mostly because they were at school when the 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit just before 9am, doctors and health officials said,.

Most of the children are traumatized. Many are alone, having lost their entire families.

"The big thing that we're frightened of in a few days is the placement of these children," said Dr Adeel Riaz, a surgery resident. "We have many children here, they have been treated but we're not letting them go anywhere.

"The concern is that the children might be used. They might be taken away to other countries and be misused" - possibly to labour or to sexual trafficking, he said.