Life remains a challenge for quake survivors
According to official figures, 600,000 homes need to be built in rural areas and 30,000 in urban areas to shelter the homeless.Updated: Oct 06, 2006 19:06 IST
One year after the October 2005 earthquake, life for the affected people in Pakistan's quake-hit areas remains a big challenge.
In spite of a huge hullabaloo about the relief and rehabilitation measures in quake-hit areas, the reality is that thousands of people in these areas continue to live without permanent shelters and have to face yet another harsh cold winter without basic necessities of life.
The remains of landslide due to the earthquake still exist in the mountain like scars embedded on healthy skin.
Even after twelve months, survivors continue to live in relief tents or shelters made from corrugated iron.
There is little change in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, where more than 36,000 were killed in the earthquake.
A large number of makeshift shelters sit in the rubbles of the destroyed houses in Rawalakot, Bagh, Mansehra, Chakothi and Muzaffarabad.
Relief tents stand on top of the skeletal remains of buildings. Dust and exposed iron rods are a permanent feature and some buildings still lie where they fell.
According to Pakistani official figures, 600,000 homes need to be built in rural areas and 30,000 in urban areas to shelter the homeless.
According to official figures, around 76,000 people died in the quake, which struck North West Frontier Province and Pakistani Kashmir on Oct 8 last year that left 3.3 million homeless.
Musarat, the head of the Government High School for Girls in Chakothi, wiped away tears on the edge of her headscarf when she talked about last October's terrible experience.
Though she had been buried deep in the rubbles for seven hours she was lucky to have survived.
But her seven students and three teachers were not so lucky.
Musarat said that she could never forget the children and adults outside her school crying and trying to find each other amidst collapsing walls and falling rubble.
She said that the main challenge after the earthquake was to help young children get over their trauma.
"Of course there is some sort of psychological effect on their mind, but what we have to do is to lead them out of grief and make their life normal," Musarat said.
Now a new school with 10 classrooms, staff rooms, library and labs are being set up. Local workers are engaged in rebuilding the school.
Musarat said that though some workers are busy rebuilding their own houses, "they come here to help us in order to get it inaugurated on the day of the earthquake anniversary."
Looking ahead she said, "I believe the future will be better."
There is a sign of significant progress, the corrugated-iron university, paid for by a charity, which will be operational in two months time.
In Muzaffarabad and other towns, Pakistanis are trying to pick up where they left off before the quake struck.
Business in markets on the roadside continues to boom. Residents can be seen searching for essentials such as tea, rice, vegetables, fruits and meat.
A vegetable vendor, who lived in a village near Muzaffarabad, said, "If I can work, I should work. It's better to work than to wait in line and accept aid."
"We will restore the beauty of our hometown, but we need time," Deputy Chairman of Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA) Ahmed Nadeem told Xinhua after a visit to areas ravaged by the earthquake.
"The biggest problem has been managing the expectations. Everybody thinks this work should have been done yesterday," he said.
A year after the disaster, challenges remain, but the longing for new life has emerged among the affected. The "tragedy should be diverted into an opportunity," Chairman of ERRA Altaf Saleem said.
First Published: Oct 06, 2006 11:57 IST