It was roughly 9 in the morning on a Saturday, I felt as if somebody was dragging my bed. My mother woke up murmuring that it was an earthquake while my drowsy head baffled between the possibilities of either I was dreaming or something was happening for real. I could hear Arabic verses as she recited them in a state of fright. But our fear didn’t know how lucky we were having these minor tremors in Lahore, while the real trouble faced to the direction of north.
We turned on the television to witness one of the worst disasters in the history of Pakistan. An earthquake had struck the northern area of Pakistan. The magnitude was 7.6 on the Richter scale, originating from about 65 miles to the northeast of Islamabad.
Muzaffarabad, that claimed to be the prettiest region of Kashmir, was turned into ruins in a matter of seconds. Blissful parents, giggling children, contended souls and breathe taking landscape; everyone and everything went upside down. Shrieks of children echoed from beneath the debris, parents roamed back and forth pleading Lord for help.
The streets now had amputated body parts and blood at every step. The ill quality infrastructure brought the first betrayal to these troubled people. The access to the affected area was cut and coming for rescue/evacuation was a real nuisance/problem.
The government of that time failed to curb the destruction such catastrophe could cause. The northern region being predetermined as “seismic hazard zone” deserved special attention from the governing bodies so that any unforeseen destruction could be confined to a reduced scale. Having stringent building plans to withstand tremors, better emergency services provision and practical education of the masses about dealing with such calamities such as fre
quent drills (for children at schools) are few of the precautionary measures that could have been considered to mitigate the degree of destruction.
That unfortunate day claimed about 86,000 lives, leaving 138,000 injured and 3.5 million displaced.
The magnanimity and heartfelt concern showed by the Pakistanis nationwide for the affectees was seen as a silver lining to this disastrous occurrence. The nation stood up united to help the fellow countrymen who were going through a rough point in time. People sent all the basic necessity items to them, from blankets to medicines and food; no stone was left unturned to help them. Many people volunteered to work for the rehabilitation of the affectees in any possible way. Pakistanis residing abroad sent huge sum of money as charity; public figures renewed their philanthropic spirit and offered help in all capacity.
We were told that due to inadequate hospital facilities up in the north, many injured people were shifted to different cities of Punjab. So, one day in Lahore, our aunt took us to a hospital to meet the injured children from the north. We took toys and candies for them so that they could feel happy about something for a change. Their faces had forgotten to smile; their vacant eyes would well up every single time they saw families visiting them. They were repeatedly reminded that the wounds on their body might heal with time but the emptiness of their lives after losing their families and homes will never be filled again.
Today, 9 years have passed by and this day might not be of any significance for many. but those who lived through the tragedy of 8th October 2005 would vividly remember every detail of that unlucky day.
There are many questions that resurface in my head on this day. Was all the foreign aid received, well-spent for reconstruction of the infrastructure and rehabilitation of the victims? Have the affected areas returned to normalcy, that they enjoyed because 8:52 am on 8th October 2005? Are we ready to face a calamity like this in future?
I fear the answers might be in negative, but I wish I am wrong.