Devastating earthquake in Mirpur

The death number from Tuesday’s destructive earthquake destroyed about one hundred thousands of houses and road infrastructure in the southern Mirpur district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and adjoining Jhelum district of Punjab rose to 38. The victims comprised 15 children (eight girls and seven boys), 10 women and 12 men. The youngest of them was an 18-day-old baby. In addition 579 persons were injured and 160 of them received serious injuries. The 5.8-magnitude earthquake had shocked the federal capital and several other cities of Punjab on Tuesday. As many as 419 solid houses were destroyed and approximately 6,500 were partly damaged in Mirpur district. Among the non solid houses, 1,200 were levelled and 500 were damaged. AJK premier, COAS visit quake-hit Mirpur areas; repair of 14.5 kilometer affected road under way. The livestock had also been hit by the quake, as 580 cattle head were reported to have been killed by the earthquake in Mirpur district. Hailing the bravery and flexibility of Kashmiri people, the AJK prime minister thanked the civil society of Mirpur for benevolently supporting the quake victims. After an aerial view of the quake-hit areas of the AJK, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also took round of some places on foot and surveyed the current efforts to repair damages at Jatlan Canal Road, The NDMA chief stated more than 200 tents, 800 blankets and 200 kitchen sets, tarpaulins and first aid kits and other stuff had been dispatched to the influenced areas.
The earthquake in northern Punjab and parts of Azad Kashmir has brought with it resentful memories from the 2005 catastrophe that claimed about 75,000 lives. Whereas rescue efforts this time were speedier and better than before – probably due to the less scale of devastation the loss of life could have been avoided. The aftershocks could not be discarded but the situation was not critical since there were many fault lines in the country. The affected area of New Mirpur lies on the active Samwal-Jharik Kass fault line, which, professional say, was also activated in the 2005. The quake was the second principal one to have hit the area that lays in seismic zone 4 the most at risk in twenty years. The devastation of the 2005 earthquake should have made a deep influence on how the government views and deals with natural disasters. With regard geographical location, Pakistan is more inclined to than many other countries to natural disasters, the effect of which has tremendously increased due to global warming. As reported by a report by the disaster management authority in KP, all 26 districts of the province are now exposed to natural calamities because of the increased frequency of hot weather events (in addition to seismic activity in the region) as compared to only 13 districts ten years ago. This is also true for the rest of the country that now evidences torrential rains, floods and droughts on a regular basis. Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, with all its urban hazards comprising low quality construction, also lies in a zone of discernible seismic danger. Many areas are so thickly populated that only a moderate tremor would be enough to incur large-scale loss of lives.
Several thousands of kilometers away from their dear ones in quake-hit Azad Jammu and Kashmir, British Pakistanis with families in the region voiced their sadness and disappointment after the catastrophe struck on Tuesday evening. There have been 10 deaths in my village stated Sanawar Hussain, originally from Jatlan town. Hussain’s hometown is possibly one of the worst-hit in the powerful magnitude earthquake which struck through northern Pakistan on September 24. Tasalat Hussain, the owner of an East London-based carpet business, stated he was worried for his younger brother and uncle in Mirpur. People are so scared; my relatives tell me some have still not gone back into their houses for fear of another quake. He further said it was critical for people to have shelter, as those whose homes had been destroyed did not have a roof over their heads. The suffering of these men described was felt by thousands of Kashmiris living in cities across the UK. AJK, particularly Mirpur, has a deep affinity with the UK, where the majority of the over one-million strong Pakistani population has roots in Mirpur. The mass migration from Mirpur to Britain began in the 1960s when thousands of people had to leave their homes while the massive hydroelectric Mangla Dam was built. Throughout the years, the Kashmiris maintained its ties to its hometown. Through remittances, UK Pakistanis have invested in the uplift and development of their hometown.
Pakistan will be rational when it comes to accepting foreign aid. It may be correct that it does not require aid in terms of food or medication at present, but the shock suffered by people and their needs should also be considered. Pakistan should question the state of disaster readiness in AJK and other areas, not just for earthquakes but also other perils such as landslips and torrential rain. Pakistan, believe that the denial of any damage by Indian authorities was part of the communications blackout imposed in the wake of New Delhi’s set aside the special status accorded to the occupied state. The shock in Mirpur must jolt the authorities into proper action. Particularly with the winter setting in and rains anticipated too, the rescue and relief operations being carried out by emergency services as well as the Pakistan Army must go on at a speedier pace and in a well- harmonized manner. The government must see all the necessary responses that is sufficient allocation of emergency funds for reconstruction and relocation; clear utilization of these funds; appropriate coordination among the various emergency responders; etc. Concerned government agencies need to sit down with earthquake professionals and work together on how best to respond to and recover from major earthquakes. The authorities must now start concentrating on developing a culture of readiness.

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