The irreparable loss to life and property in Pakistan
caused by the deadly earthquake of Saturday has gone far beyond the initial estimates of authorities that put figure merely in hundreds and kept it repeating on the media for the whole day. The destruction of a 10-story building in Islamabad proved just a window on a large landscape: many a towns and villages of Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Northern Areas were completely destroyed.
Earthquake of 7.6 magnitude jolted Islamabad, the federal capital city of Pakistan, at 8:45 having epicenter at 93 km in its northeast, somewhere around Line of Control. The deadly tremor shook the land within the radius of 2200 km. Besides completely destroying towns and villages in AJK and NWFP, it shook all the major cities of Punjab.
For 48 hours the aftershocks pushed people into the open air. Private and public offices in Islamabad were closed. Panic hit the capital as reports said the PM secretariat had also developed cracks. The city administration and the relief workers rushed to the damaged building to help people trapped in the rubble. The rescue workers at destroyed site were seen appealing for electric cutters, heavy cranes, search lights, water and juices even after five hours of destruction.
The interior minister reached the spot within two hours followed by the President and PM amidst aftershocks and the announcement by the Met office that tremors would continue for the next 48 hours. The ISPR spokesman told a foreign news channel that the losses of life could reach the figure of 1000. He was confident that Pak Army would tackle the situation arising out of the earth quake. After three days, the estimates have reached now 60,000; the whole world is now sending rescue workers, helicopters, food and medicine to help the victims of tragedy visiting Pakistan.
The focus lately shifted to rest of the areas as reports of heavy casualties were received from Northern Areas. Many a villages in AJK had disappeared from the face of earth. The AJK president told a private news channel that hospitals had collapsed leaving doctors dead and operation theaters destroyed. He said that Muzaffar Abad had become the city of death.
Heavy casualties were reported in Abottabad and elsewhere in the Hazara division. The electronic media said 80% buildings of the area were collapsed. Soon it became clearly evident that deaths were in thousands. Authorities found it difficult to assess the damage as telecommunication system was destroyed while landslide had closed roads making access to these areas nearly impossible.
There were no equipments to pull the people out of debris. Their relatives spent the night listening to their screams until a deadly silence prevailed. Heavy rain lashed them while they were hungry and had wounds on their bodies and souls.
The next day saw tragedy in details -dead bodies scattered every where on the ground and survivors pointing towards the more under debris. There was none to bury them. People were struck by hopelessness due to bad weather and little prospects of rescue operations.
Children were affected the most by the deadly disaster visiting their villages and home towns. Most of them were in schools and could not find the opportunity to leave the buildings. As roofs fell on them their parents did not come to pull them out. Those who have survived are speechless. Trauma will take time to fade away.
How many lives have been lost, is yet to be known in details. Death causalities are simply numerous. None has time to count the dead bodies or bury them. Health experts say another disaster will visit the area if dead bodies are not buried now.
People have no homes to return. None is waiting for them there but trauma and agonies. The earthquake of only two minutes bridged turned life into death. Parents have lost children, wives their husbands and sisters their brothers. Ordeals and sufferings have no end. The loss is simply irreparable.
Government, NGOs, political parties and welfare organizations have come forward to rescue the people. Society has the responsibility for their rehabilitation. The international community is sending rescue workers, medicines, tents and helicopters showing solidarity with Pakistanis in their testing hours.
How much time it will take to restore life in death-stricken areas, is anybody’s guess. It is not just a matter of rebuilding communication, education and administrative infrastructure but restoration of normal life. Death and destruction should have brought many psychological problems for the people.
Agonies and traumas worsely affect survivors of wars and natural calamities lowering their chances to live a normal life again. People need every thing they had before the deadly earthquake. They need one thing more: a health system that should not only attend to wounds of their bodies but their souls as well.