Ten years ago on October 8, 2005 at 08:50:39, an earthquake occurred of magnitude 7.6
Ten years ago on October 8, 2005 at 08:50:39, an earthquake occurred of magnitude 7.6 — severe — and was felt across Azad Kashmir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Indian-Administered Kashmir. The damage was catastrophic, with Muzaffarabad particularly devastated, as was Balakot. The quake happened during Ramazan and at a time when many were asleep in their houses and schools suffered terribly, an entire generation of children in some instances wiped out as their classrooms collapsed on top of them. Local services were overwhelmed by the scale and magnitude of the event and in many cases first responders were themselves casualties. As many as 80,000 may have died in all, and around four million were left homeless.
Travelling through the area today, it is still possible to spot blue tents on the hillsides where families have yet to rebuild their homes. The town of Balakot has been completely rebuilt. Unfortunately and against all advice and the persuasion of local and federal agencies, it has been rebuilt in exactly the same place it was when the quake struck. There will eventually be another quake and Balakot will once again be flattened. In Islamabad, the Margalla Towers building that was partially destroyed has been razed and replaced, though the matter of poor construction by the developer who built it originally is unresolved.
Muzaffarabad, according to reliable reports, has made a good recovery, and the pledge to ‘build back better’ that was the post-quake mantra has become reality — though not for all. There has been consistent criticism of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) that was set up in the immediate aftermath of the quake and continues to operate to this day. Criticism aside, much of it justified, ERRA has also overseen massive reconstruction of health and education infrastructure as well as roads and bridges, much of the work using international aid money.
The 2005 quake was of overwhelming severity, and would have stretched or disabled the resources of any state on Earth. Another disaster of this magnitude cannot be discounted. Only in that sad event will it be known whether Pakistan has learned — and acted on — lessons from 2005. But if the example of Balakot is anything to go by, history will repeat itself.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015.
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