It was extremely shocking and traumatic as what happened on the morning of October 08, 2005: an earthquake befell as a cataclysmic event in Pakistan’s history to be remembered for a very long to come. So many people were still asleep when suddenly they were jolted awake. All at once they began screaming from houses and apartment blocks, confounded and staggering as repeated quakes of 7.6 on the Richter scale rocked the earth. It was Saturday, just before 9 a.m. By the time people came to their senses, the phone network was totally jammed. The sweep of death and destruction across a vast swathe of territory from Kashmir to Hazara, Swat and Islamabad was heart-rending. The most powerful quake to hit the region in 100 years killed thousand of people and caused massive destruction in northern Pakistan and areas close to its epicenter, which was in Azad Kashmir some 95 Kilometers northeast of the federal capital.
The collapse of a 10-storey apartment complex in Islamabad gripped the entire nation, as thousands of people rushed to the scene to rescue those trapped in the rubble. While the country was still reeling from the tragedy in Islamabad, another rude awakening was just around the corner. With news slowly trickling down from different areas, soon the news spread that Azad Kashmir had been the worst hit, followed by NWFP, next to the Afghan border. The next day brought terrible pain and anguish to yet more many people of Azad Kashmir who had gone to work in the big cities but returned to their home villages to find them razed to the ground.
The devastating earthquake hit the residents of Azad Kashmir in many ways. Unlike Muzzafarabad and Bagh districts, the disaster had stolen shelter virtually from every single inhabitant of Rawalakot. Rawalakot seemed to wear the look of a devastated place. However, the destruction was not as dramatic and anguishing as it was in Muzaffarabad. The tremors were as deadly as they could be, regardless of the fact that the impact came in a different shape. Azad Kashmir’s sprawling capital city looked like a ghost town, a 21st century reminder to the World War II blitzkrieg. With entire suburban population heading to the town in hope of relief, more danger of disease was at hand with some 20,000 bodies decaying underneath the rubble and over countless injured living in the worst unhygienic conditions. The city’s only health facility, the 400-beded Combined Military Hospital was probably the first victim of the earthquake leaving some 200 dead. There was no power supply. Telephone lines were dead and no diesel or petrol was available to run any vehicle. In such a calamity the medical staff could do nothing more than minor surgery, bandage and administering anti-biotic injections. The patients were scattered all over the ground with some lying on the cots brought from home — a few lucky ones on hospital beds, yet others on pull carts and many simply on the ground. It is estimated that about one thousand hospitals were destroyed in the earthquake in Pakistan, severely hampering urgent medical treatment for thousands of injured people. The only public library in the area of Kashmir was completely destroyed in the magnitude of 7.6 earthquake that devastated the mountainous region. The Khurshid National Library in Muzaffarabad, near the epicenter of the quake, apparently fell into one of two huge crevasses that opened up suddenly within the city. The library was caved deep in the ground and only a small, demolished part was visible. Numerous victims were schoolchildren, who had just begun classes when all of a sudden school buildings collapsed on top of them. Children made up half the population of the affected area were particularly vulnerable according to the UN children’s agency Unicef. It was a whole generation that appeared to be lost in the worst affected areas.
While the rescuers were pulling out dead children in Muzaffarabad, there was none to claim the bodies. It clearly indicated that their parents were dead. The rescue effort had been slowed by landslides, which had wiped out roads and bridges, and a lack of helicopters to ferry in vital heavy lifting equipment. A road was re-opened into Muzaffarabad where 11,000 are thought to have died, allowing trucks to deliver food and medical supplies. People were becoming more and more desperate with medical supplies and trucks, which were so late to deliver food because of closed roads. There was many a report of looting at damaged shops and homes.
It was immensely distressing while tens of thousands of survivors spent a second night in the cold without shelter. The quake also jolted Afghanistan and India and could be felt as far as 640 kilometers away from its epicenter. The tremor was so strong that the structures shook and swayed mercilessly as panicked residents raced out of their houses and work places to open places chanting prayers. About four million people had been affected by the quake. The major loss occurred in five Azad Kashmir districts and six northern districts of NWFP. The death toll was over hundred thousand and seriously injured were in a greater number. It was the greatest life loss the country ever faced after its inception in 1947. The quake was numbing, horrifying and unbelievable as thousand of families were rendered homeless and the entire young generation of Azad Kashmir had been perished. In the northern districts of NWFP Balakot a town of about 250,000 people appeared to be the hardest hit as it was almost devastated. The disaster magnitude stunned the nation as reconstruction cost could go beyond 5 billion dollars.
It was a testing time for the nation but people faced that calamity with ineffable courage and pluck as thousands of people flocked to help their fellow citizens, who had been hit by the worst and most horrible earthquake. Thousands of people rushed to different camps and donate generously and open-heartedly. Apart from Pakistanis rescue teams, aid arrived into Pakistan from all over the world but the magnitude of the devastation is so huge that at least two decades are required for the reconstruction and rehabilitation process.
This article was last updated on Monday, Dec 02, 2005
The 2005 Kashmir earthquake occurred at 08:50:39 Pakistan Standard Time on 8 October in Pakistan administered areas of Kashmir. It was centered near the city of Muzaffarabad, and also affected Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Indian administered areas of Jammu and Kashmir. It registered a moment magnitude of 7.6 and had a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe). The earthquake also affected countries in the surrounding region where tremors were felt in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and ChineseXinjiang. The severity of the damage caused by the earthquake is attributed to severe upthrust. It is considered the deadliest earthquake to hit South Asia since the 1935 Quetta earthquake.
Kashmir lies in the area of collision of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. The geological activity born out of this collision, also responsible for the birth of the Himalayan mountain range, is the cause of unstable seismicity in the region. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured its magnitude as a minimum of 7.6 on the moment magnitude scale, with its epicentre about 19 km (12 mi) northeast of Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, and 100 km (62 mi) north-northeast of the national capital Islamabad.
Most of the devastation hit north Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir. In Kashmir, the three main districts were badly affected and Muzaffarabad, the state capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir, was hardest hit in terms of casualties and destruction. Hospitals, schools, and rescue services including police and armed forces were paralysed. There was virtually no infrastructure and communication was badly affected. More than 70% of all casualties were estimated to have occurred in Muzaffarabad. Bagh, the second-most-affected district, accounted for 15% of the total casualties.
The Pakistani government’s official death toll as of November 2005 stood at 87,350 although it is estimated that the death toll could reach over 100,000. Approximately 138,000 were injured and over 3.5 million rendered homeless. According to government figures, 19,000 children died in the earthquake, most of them in widespread collapses of school buildings. The earthquake affected more than 500,000 families. In addition, approximately 250,000 farm animals died due to collapse of stone barns, and more than 500,000 large animals required immediate shelter from the harsh winter.
As Saturday is a normal school day in the region, most students were at schools when the earthquake struck. Many were buried under collapsed school buildings. Many people were also trapped in their homes and, because it was the month of Ramadan, most people were taking a nap after their pre-dawn meal and did not have time to escape. Reports indicate that entire towns and villages were completely wiped out in northern Pakistan, with other surrounding areas also suffering severe damage.
- "...a second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up our efforts now", Kofi Annan said on 20 October with reference to the thousand remote villages in which people are in need of medical attention, food, clean water and shelter and the 120,000 survivors that have not yet been reached."
According to Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz "made the appeal to survivors" on 26 October to come down to valleys and cities for relief, because bad weather, mountainous terrain, landslides and blocked roads are making it difficult for relief workers to reach each house and the winter snows are imminent."
In Islamabad, the Margalla Towers, an apartment complex in sector F-10, collapsed and killed many of the residents. Four deaths were reported in Afghanistan, including a young girl who died in Jalalabad, after a wall collapsed on her. The quake was felt in Kabul, but the effects were minimal there.
There were many secondary earthquakes in the region, mainly to the northwest of the original epicentre. A series of strong aftershocks occurred near Muzaffarabad. As of 27 October 2005 there had been more than 978 aftershocks with a magnitude of 4.0 and above that continued to occur daily. Since then, measurements from satellites have shown that mountain parts directly above the epicenter have risen by a few meters, giving ample proof that the rising of the Himalayas is still going on, and that this earthquake was a consequence of that.
Main article: International response to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake
The national and international humanitarian response to the crisis was extensive. In the initial phases of response, the Pakistan Medical corps, Corps of Engineers, Army aviation and a large number of infantry units played important roles. Lt. Gen Afzal, Maj. Gen. Imtiaz, and Maj. Gen Javid were the leaders of their formations. Maj.Gen Farrukh Seir was in charge of foreign relief co-ordination. The relief work in Jammu and Kashmir was led by IAS officers of the state administration, Bashir Runyal and Jaipal Singh. In early 2006, the Government of Pakistan organized a donors' conference to raise money for reconstruction and development of the area. A total of $6.2 billion was pledged and a large amount of the money was delivered in terms of services of international NGOs with high pay scales. The rest of the money pledged, which was given to the Government of Pakistan for reconstruction and development, was used by a reconstruction authority called Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, which was made by then military regime to accommodate retired high military officials and while keeping the command of the reconstruction and rehabilitation authority directly under the military. This authority has been highly criticised[by whom?] for luxurious non-developmental spending and false statistics. The basic infrastructure, including tertiary care, health, education, road networks, water supply, waste management and other basic needs, was still underdeveloped and had not reached pre-earthquake status in the region.
Well over US$ 5.4 billion (400 billion Pakistani rupees) in aid arrived from all around the world. US Marine and Army helicopters stationed in neighbouring Afghanistan quickly flew aid into the devastated region along with five CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Royal Air Force that were deployed from the United Kingdom. Five crossing points were opened on the Line of Control (LOC), between India and Pakistan, to facilitate the flow of humanitarian and medical aid to the affected region, and aid teams from different parts of Pakistan and around the world came to the region to assist in relief.
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←Earthquakes in 2005→
† indicates earthquake resulting in at least 30 deaths