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Earthquake: An Eye-Opening Disaster

Earthquake: An Eye-Opening Disaster

By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney

The strongest earthquake, which hit at 0350 GMT on 8th of October, is thought to have been the strongest earthquake in the South Asia region in a century. A whole generation has been wiped out in the areas devastated by the tremor. The 7.6-magnitude quake wiped away long established villages and buried victims under piles of debris. The most beautiful places on earth became the ghost towns. One of the beautiful and historical cities of the region, Muzaffarabad, 70% just flattened. Estimates of the death toll ranged between 40,000 and 60,000 and approximately 4 million people have become homeless. The horrifying graphic images on the electronic media of injured babies, women and elderly have shaken the people around the globe.

The magnitude of the earthquake was so broaden that it also affected the towns and villages in India and Afghanistan. The wounds of the Tsunami were not fully recovered yet that another natural catastrophe in region has shocked the world. International medical charity is warning that there is a danger of an epidemic of water-borne disease in the affected areas.

Relief workers and military officials close to Indo-Pak border in the Himalayan region of Kashmir struggled to reach hundreds of villages have been completely cut off. It took hours before excavators and cranes could be brought at the disaster areas. Even after 36 hours of the disaster there weren't enough equipment to lift the debris and rescue the possible survivors. The authorities did not have the appropriate equipment to find out how many people were trapped under the rubbles. The rescue facilities and the medical relief services available in Pakistan just could not cope and the President General Pervez Musharraf had to appeal to the international community to assist Pakistan with supplies of medicine, tents, cargo helicopters and financial help to overcome the country’s worst natural calamity. The countries, around the world, without wasting any time, generously responded and delivered necessary aid packages and equipment and their teams launched the rescue operations promptly.

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According to the media sources, many people have been falling sick with stomach illnesses as a result of drinking contaminated water; their health has worsened by sleeping out in the cold. They are complaining of diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. The experts are advising people not to drink the water from reservoirs, as many dead bodies may have fallen into them. It is an unmitigated debacle for Pakistan to provide immediate help and assistance to its people in their time of need rather than prompting other countries to send in aid, firemen, sniffer-dogs, even tents, blankets, medicines, doctors etc. Fortunately, the earthquake did not hit severely in the other neighbouring countries otherwise the situation could have been the same. The earthquake is a natural disaster, you cannot take any measures to stop it but at least, having proper precautionary measures, better housing and building construction planning and controls, efficient search and rescue services, disaster recovery infrastructure, medical relief and other basic facilities, the rate of losses of human lives could be reduced.

No doubt, the common people have proved to be very generous, helpful and extremely kind to each other whenever these kinds of disasters occurred. In this disaster, there has been remarkable enthusiasm, unity and discipline seen from the public. The people lined-up hours to donate the blood, deliver the aid packets and so on but the authorities did not have adequate transportation to deliver those donations to the victims in time.

Another important factor is the channelization and fair distribution of aid and funds to the victims. A country where the rate of corruption within the government agencies is terrible how one could be assured that all the foreign and local aid would be delivered to the victims truthfully.

President Musharraf replying to the media during his visit to the affected area very angrily said that the one had to show patience… even US could not act rapidly when Katrina hit New Orleans. President Musharraf’s statement may have strong weight to shut-up the media but who could deny ground realities. The real pride for any nation is having economic independency; strong management infrastructure and corruption free government structure rather than piling the atomic nuclear items.

Soviet Union was also the most powerful nuclear nation if not equal to USA then no. 2 in the world for sure. The country had nuclear arms but the people did not have money to buy bread and butter. And we all know the end result. Nation building is a step by step and stage-wise process. You cannot construct a ten-story building starting from the tenth floor to the ground level.

The conditions in India are not different than in Pakistan. The situations more or less were same when Indian State of Gujarat hit by earthquake, in 2001, where the death toll were anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 many thousands were homeless.

India and Pakistan are the two countries which have miserably, and quite consistently, failed to provide the very basic services to their people. Both India and Pakistan keep the largest population in the world spending enormous amount of its budget on nuclear and arms development least consider in securing and equipped the country for enough rescuing measures against natural disaster and to provide the basic facilities to their people. Millions of dollars are spent on testing and building dangerous missile but least funds are allocated on providing and improving the basic necessities of the daily life.

Pakistan spends 74% of its budget on defence, India spends 25 to 30% on its arms build-up but they spend less than 10% on education and health. In every few months time Pakistan and India spend millions of dollars in testing nuclear missiles and other dangerous weapons.

According to the sources, Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan which holds 15 million people has only 3 major hospitals. In case of an emergency, only 5000 people can be provided the basic medical aid. This mega city has no matchable disaster recovery and rescue system. Only 20 fire stations exist in the entire city. God forbid if anything happens to this city one can not imagine how the authorities can cope with unforseen.

The Governments of both Pakistan and India should learn with this mayhem where the authorities are even incapable to count the exact number of casualties. These countries, instead of involving themselves, unnecessarily, in the race of piling dangerous weapons by spending millions of dollars from the government treasuries should work together in providing the basic facilities to the public. They should concentrate more to take measures for population control, providing clean water, a better environment, good health and security and to equip themselves against any natural disaster.

Concluded on 12th of October, 2005


(The writer is a Sydney-based journalist and an Analyst).
Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Email: shassan@tribune-intl.com

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