Devastation of Earthquake

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A cataclysmic unleashing of destructive power took place on Saturday October 8th, when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and the both sides of Kashmir. The epicenter was near the city of Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Azad Kashmir, most of whose buildings were destroyed or damaged. Villages were also devastated in the Indian-run bit of Kashmir. The United Nations reckons that 2.5 to 4m people have been left without shelter. Landslides have destroyed many roads where they existed in the first place, given the remoteness of some of the affected regions making it extremely difficult to bring in medical and food supplies. Thus many more people seem destined to die from illness or injury, hunger or hypothermia. Even those who still have a home to go to are afraid to sleep in it, for fear of violent aftershocks. These include Sikander Hayat Khan, the prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, who has been working and sleeping in a tent in the grounds of his official residence since the weekend. “Kashmir has turned into a graveyard”.

Disasters are always most poignant, most chilling, It is very hard for me to narrate devastation of recent earthquake of the country, which killed more than 50,000 innocent people. There left no “Bagh” or “Mali” in the Azad Kashmir. There is no more “Bala” or “Coat” in the most effected area of Balakot. There is no more “Muszaffar” or Jamal left alive in many areas of Muzaffarabad The hundred of thousands school going children lost the race of their lives and most of them buried alive while waiting the arrival of any kind of “Help”. There was no “Man” or “Sehra” (head) are now left in the whole division of the Mansehra. Rawalakot has turned into the city of the homeless. The humanity suffered badly and the naked dance of “Death” continued for days on the heads of the living and dead people and hopes of millions of people were dashed to the ground. There was no food, medicine, shelter, and the last not the least “Hope” for life. Life lost and death won. Main focus of the government was on “Margalla Tower” and hundred of thousands died and buried alive in far-reaching Northern areas and Azad Kashmir for the hope against hope that some assistance from the local government or federal government could survive them. Common people were dieing on the ground and our rulers were busy in aerial surveys. The agony of the living in Azad Kashmir, the NWFP and elsewhere in the north still continues. They are millions in number. The ordeal of those still trapped under the debris is indescribable. It could take days to clear it to pull them out dead or alive.

There will be massive economic and political fallout from the tragedy, which has the potential to turn the whole dynamics of the region upside down. Already there is anger in Pakistan especially in northern areas and Azad Kashmir, the worst hit areas over the slow official response to the crisis. Indeed, it took a day before officials sitting in Islamabad even acknowledged there was a crisis. Almost 90 per cent of the buildings in Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir, have been destroyed or damaged. Except for some 50000 who perished in Mansehra and adjoining areas in the NWFP, all the casualties took place in Azad Kashmir, where the epicenter of the killer earthquake lay.

The death toll included 250 girls who died when their school in northwestern Pakistan collapsed. In another incident, 400 children were said to have died when two schools collapsed in Northwest Frontier Province’s Mansehra district. 30% houses collapsed in Mansehra, 60% in Muzaffarabad, 80% in Rawalakot and Balakot etc, entire villages perched on the hillsides disappearing in mudslides. According to a UN report (2005) more than 150 schools and 1000 hospitals have been fully destroyed. International community responded swiftly and donated generously. The “Pope” sympathized with the government while “Imam-e- Kabh” did not even give lips service on that national calamity of our country. Israel, India, Japan, Germany, UN, Great Britain, Spain, and many others foreign countries showed great concerns and donated generously for the rescue operations. The “Flash Appeal” of $272 million issued by the United Nations was only the initial appeal and it would be revised and upgraded as need arises. The states that have made pledges to the flash appeal include Japan $20 million followed by United States, Italy, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Germany, Nepal and Maldives.

Local and multinational companies Response

Local and multinational companies along with their employees and business partners are busy in extending relief in cash and kind to the unfortunate victims of the earthquake that has devastated the northern areas of Pakistan.

Name of the company

Donation

Global multinational BP Plc

Committed $1 million to support Pakistan disaster relief efforts. In addition, BP Pakistan will make an immediate donation of $200,000 to the President’s Relief Fund.

Shell Companies in Pakistan and Royal Dutch Shell

Announced a donation of Rs30 million for the earthquake relief activities. The employees and business partners of the Shell Group will also contribute towards this donation

Chemical Pakistan Ltd

Rs20 million

Engro Vopak Terminal Ltd

Rs1 million

PRL

Rs10m, sends truckload of supplies

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association [PPMA]

Dispatched medicines worth Rs20 million to the earthquake-affected areas

The ICI Group in Pakistan

Announced the donation of Rs15 million to the President’s Relief Fund for earthquake victims in northern Pakistan. The employees of ICI Group in Pakistan are also contributing two days gross salary to the relief

KATI

Rs12.5m in quake relief

Pak Oman

Rs10m

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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the first international leaders who landed in the country to show the sympathies of her government and assured full assistance of the US government in the earthquake relief effort, announcing that her country would provide more helicopters and equipment for opening blocked roads and removing debris in inaccessible areas.

The national calamity produced by severe earthquake was instrument to create spirits of sacrifice, cooperation, national brotherhood, and harmony not only in the country but also in other sides of our borders. The massive and spontaneous response of ordinary Pakistanis to the earthquake-affected people was great. In a pleasing incident an Indian soldiers crossed LoC to rebuild a quake-destroyed bunker of Pakistan’s side. An Indian cargo plane delivered relief supplies for earthquake victims in Pakistan, the first such airlift between the neighbours in decades. The llyushin-76 flew seven truckloads of army medicines, 15,000 blankets and 50 tents to Pakistan.

Socio-Economic Implications

Our planet is a funny place to live. It is shame for us that western world is pouring billion of dollars for the rescue operation of earthquake affected people and in our own country, most of the businessmen, retailers, and transporters are busy to make profit out of the national tragedy. More than two and half million people have been displaced and property worth billions of rupees lost due to the earthquake. The impact of the jolt in terms of economic losses is yet to be calculated but things are clear about huge burden on government’s spending that would certainly hit a lot of new and ongoing projects. This would be resulted in slowing down of the economy besides increasing budget deficit. It is estimated that the government would have to spend at least Rs50 billion for the settlement of about over two million displaced people.

A number of labour force and workers employed in city’s mega industrial estates have left for their homeland to either mourn the death of their family members or manage food and shelter for the loved ones who have survived. A large number of workers and labour force, who usually prefer going back home a few days ahead of Eid with gifts and parcels for their children and parents, will now be facing a strange ordeal after reaching home empty handed with only tears in their eyes. In the Korangi industrial area, an estimated 25 per cent workforce belonging to the earthquake devastated areas had left the city. Out of 90 per cent tannery workers belonging to Punjab, Mansehra, Hazara, etc., 50 per cent have returned to their respective affected areas. The government of NWFP demanded extra Rs32 billion for the rescue operation and rehabilitation process.

Inflationary pressures in the economy will soon be felt. The prices of items needed for immediate relief effort are already soaring. And there are chances that essential items like flour, cooking oil, etc., disappear from the market shortly. This is definitely going to add to inflationary pressures in the economy. The prices of cement, steel and other items required for construction will also shoot up when reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas gets under way.

Concluding Remarks

There are empted hands and tear full eyes in the Azad Kashmir and northern areas of the country. The unlimited homes demolished and hearts broke too. They all need our constant and prolonged special care. The orphan children are not liabilities they are our national assets. The severe earthquake has thought us that humanity is sacred and spirits of sacrifice, brotherhood, and brotherhood may defeat the unfolding shadows of Death.

Since, new epicenter has been recovered near our capital city, now all concrete and coordinated efforts should be made to make the lives of people save and sound in the future. New construction law ought to be implemented immediately. Disasters Crisis Management Policy should be announced at once. There is need to have hi-tech apparatus for the rescue operations in the future. Training programs should be initiated with the help of Turkey, France, Spain and Britain in the orbit of civil defense and armed forces. Alternative means of communications needs to be established at once.

It is not the time of “Political Scoring” but the time to “Secure” the affected people. It is not the time of personal liking and disliking (Qazi Hussian Ahmed). It is the time of national harmony and reconciliation. Rescue operations should be streamlined and rehabilitation process should also be started at once. At the last not the least I salute the hundreds of “Soldiers” who laid their lives in the earthquake and rescue operations.

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