Figures about the death toll,
ranging from 40,000 to 100,000, are being released from different
quarters in the public and the private sector, however, the correct
assessment of the total damage in terms of life and property caused by
7.7 magnitude earthquake is not possible at this point of time.
Damage to the life and
property is so widespread in the hilly terrains, towns and villages of
Azad Kashmir and NWFP that it was not possible for the rescue teams to
reach in those areas where people were still looking for the rescue
teams in many affected areas even after six days of the tragic
The absence of any government
machinery in Azad Kashmir added hardships of the people as no
government organization remained in working order after the
earthquake. Almost all government structures, offices and even the
Prime Minister House caved in as a result of the powerful tremors
hitting the area on Oct 8.
The loss caused by the
earthquake is, no doubt, irreparable, however, the way the nation has
risen to the occasion and responded to the call of the hour was also
unforgettable. In fact the pain was felt in all corners of the country
which is an indicator that the national fiber is still intact.
On one hand the tragedy was
heartbreaking, while the spontaneous response given by the people from
all walks of life to help out the victims without any discrimination
of cast and creed disproved the propaganda or impression that
Pakistanis are extremists.
The roadside relief camps
were set up by all religious sects and political parties and the
piling up of relief goods in front of the camps was enough to prove
that the people of Pakistan have a true love for humanity without
discrimination of color, cast and creed.
In fact, the earthquake has
proved as a wake up call for the people as well as the government. It
is the need of the hour and the responsibility of the present
leadership to give a proper direction to the zeal and spirit generated
by this natural calamity. The art of leadership is to keep alive this
national spirit to face future challenges.
Pakistan will have to go
through an emergency phase of crisis management for six months, yet
another 10 years will be required for complete rehabilitation and
reconstruction of infrastructure in Azad Kashmir and in NWFP, which
gives an idea of the devastation caused by the repeated tremors
flattening a large number of small villages and towns in these areas.
According to initial reports,
the massive October 8 earthquake killed at least 40,000 people while
rendering more than 4 million homeless in the devastated areas of
The biggest problem was to
reach people in affected areas as the earthquake destroyed more than
80 percent of structures and buildings in various parts of northern
Pakistan, whereas strong aftershocks were threatening the buildings
that have already been damaged by the first jolt.
Many cities and villages in
Azad Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province - the most affected
areas - have been wiped out. More than four million people are
affected of whom one million are in acute need of assistance.
The relief workers are
however struggling to get access to needy people in thousands of
isolated communities. Actually, to get the relief to the devastated
areas was a race against the clock, because the time was running short
even for those who survived but looking helplessly for the assistance
under the open sky and harsh chilly weather following thunderstorm and
The UN Under Secretary
General and world body's Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland,
had an aerial view of the ruined city of Muzaffarabad close to the
epicenter of the earth quake. His immediate remarks about the damage
caused by the earthquake were: "The devastation is just a
complete nightmare". More than four million people were affected
of whom one million are in acute need of assistance.
"We are most concerned
for the people stuck in small villages. It is a race against the
clock," Egeland noted after a helicopter tour of the region
The UN humanitarian
coordinator promised a 60-bed medical facility would be established in
Muzaffarabad where most hospitals and clinics have been destroyed by
the quake. He issued an urgent appeal for more helicopters, the only
way to ferry aid to the many cut off settlements, saying many more
were needed right now if thousands of lives are to be saved.
It may be recalled that UN on
Tuesday last launched Flash Appeal for approximately $272 million for
Pakistan, in response to the 7.6 magnitude earthquake. The appeal aims
at launching life saving and early recovery activities under a
six-month emergency phase.
Egeland also asked donor
countries to be generous in responding to the emergency. More than 30
countries have already pledged more than $300million to help the
victims and play for reconstruction. Kuwait and the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) have given $100 million each.
It is expected that by next
week the relief operation would grow bigger and better with the
arrival of more tents, water purification systems, food and medicine.
The United Nations will be
here for a long time and would assist Pakistan in setting up a
disaster management system.
Currently, the relief
operation is being carried out by Pakistan Army, government agencies
and the private sector at a massive scale through air and land routes.
Besides endless cue of trucks
loaded with relief goods dispatched by the people within the country,
Pakistan received more than 5,200 tons of relief goods from 42
During the relief operation
in different parts of Kashmir and NWFP, 43 tons of medicines, 17,078
tons of ration, 26,486 blankets, 7,000 tents, and 54 tons of clean
drinking water was dispatched in 362 sorties of army helicopters for
distribution among affected people during last 5 days. So far about
1,500 tons of relief goods from domestic and foreign sources has been
distributed among the affected people.
It may be mentioned here that
more than 100 helicopters are busy in carrying out the rescue
operation and distribution of relief goods. Actually, these
helicopters are discharging dual responsibilities. They are carrying
relief goods for distribution and bringing back the victims to the
hospitals in Islamabad and other cities on their return.
Pakistan Army has established
central points to receive the goods brought from Islamabad and other
parts of the country. About 46 choppers are also working for the
transportation purpose. Among these 6 were provided by the United
States, 9 by Pakistan Army, 3 by Afghanistan, 2 by Germany, 2 by
Pakistan Navy, 3 by Aga Khan Foundation and the rest are the small
helicopters owned by the army.
The countries donated in the
President Relief Fund are US, UK, Japan, China, India, Singapore,
Thailand, Afghanistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, UAE,
Uzbekistan, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Syria, Belgium, Iran,
Libya and Qatar.
However, those made major
contributions towards the relief of quake victims are UK, US, Japan,
Turkey, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The US has sent rescue teams,
helicopters, doctors and machinery required in rescue operations.
These US experts contributed significantly to produce results in the
Rescue teams sent by the UK
were the first foreign volunteers who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with
the local people and eased the work by the use of their latest
Turkey also made contribution
by providing eight planes carrying hundreds of tons of relief goods.
Turkey will provide one plane a day till 30th October.
Iran has also provided
hundreds of tons of food, water, medicine, rice and oil as well. The
medical teams equipped with surgery equipment and emergency treatment
also served the affected people.
Ukraine is also sending a
mobile hospital and relief goods worth $2 million for the earthquake
victims. In fact medical assistance is highly valuable at this moment
of time because eruption of epidemic diseases is feared due to
stinking bodies in far flung areas. Medical charity Medicines Sans
Frontiers has warned that there was a risk of an epidemic of water
borne diseases in Muzaffarabad, the devastated capital of Azad
Meanwhile, PM Shaukat Aziz
has said that besides $300 million pledged by foreign companies and
international donor agencies, donations from domestic sources totaled
Rs600 million within first 48 hours of the earthquake.
He conceded that many areas
were still inaccessible, adding two Army divisions had been moved into
the quake-hit areas. They are helping out and coordinating with the
solders present in the area.
The PM has identified five
priority areas to face the challenge - provision of food, tents,
blankets, medicine and construction material.
The government intends to
carry out rehabilitation work along with the relief operations to
achieve quick results. Main roads leading to Muzaffarabad, Mansehra
and Balakot have been opened to traffic, but many small roads leading
to villages remained blocked, however, army troops were working to
restore all road links on war footings.
Meanwhile, Pakistan had to
tender formal apology to the foreign rescue workers due to
inefficiency and incapability of the relevant government
functionaries. In this respect, visa fee charged by he concerned staff
was returned with formal apology to the arriving foreign rescue
workers. Interior ministry has launched an investigation against
officials of the Immigration and Passport departments for charging
visa fee from foreign rescue workers.
Various Muslim relief
organizations have initiated relief efforts for the victims at a
massive scale in the United States. These organizations include (in
alphabetical order): Hidaya Foundation, Indian Muslim Relief
Committee, Islamic Relief Worldwide, ICNA Relief, KindHearts, Life for
Relief and Development, and the Zakat Foundation. Other professional
foundations - the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America
(APPNA) and the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) -
are organizing American Muslim physicians to travel to the region and
offer medical assistance.
Other task force members
include: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society
of North America (ISNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA),
Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC),
Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), Freedom and Justice Foundation,
and National Council of Pakistani Americans (NCPA).
"A coordinated program
between all Muslim organizations in North America will help improve
the quality of service to provide immediate assistance to the affected
people in the region," ISNA President Muhammad Nur Abdullah said.
The Oct 8 natural calamity in
the form of earthquake was, in fact, the first-ever of this magnitude
that struck the northern parts of Pakistan. The death doll which is
currently estimated around 40,000 is feared to rise even beyond
100,000 when the rescue operations come to an end.
People of Pakistan as well as
of other countries have displayed a great deal of generosity and have
come forward with all possible assistance. People in all corners of
the country felt the pain of the disaster as they are linked together
with a sense of being Pakistanis. This spirit is needed to be retained
and utilised in a positive direction to tell the world that people of
Pakistan are not extremists.
The loss of human lives and
property should be taken as a wake up call by the authorities. Setting
up of a National Disaster Management Cell is the need of the hour. It
should be taken seriously for the sake of safety, security and
protection of the people of this country.