8th Oct, A Look Back And Its Aftermath
By Sheikh Saaliq
16 October, 2011
It was truly called the 17th deadliest earthquake witnessed ever in records. Killing almost 75,000 people, injuring people in thousands and making millions homeless, the earthquake of 8th Oct 2005 still haunts everyone who witnessed it. Muzzafarabad, Pakistan being the epicenter of this earthquake was the mostly hit area but on other side of the border, Indian Kashmir didn’t’ remain un-affected. Almost 2,500 people were killed on this side too with thousands homeless.
It was a usual morning for Shafaqat Khan of Salamabad, Uri. As routine he was working in the nearby forest. A woodcutter in profession Khan, left for his work early in the morning but he never knew he will never see his family alive again. “I left my home for wood cutting. It was around 9 that time when I was on a tree chopping its branches and suddenly I felt something shaking hard beneath me. I fell down with a bang and broke my leg. I could see the trees bending as they were bowing each other and dust all around me. It was very horrible that time. At first I felt it was shelling from the other side of the border and I ran hobbling towards safety but I didn’t knew I was wrong. When I went back to my village with my right leg broken I was dumbstruck. Everything seemed hugged tightly with earth and cries and screams filled in the whole atmosphere. I could see our local mosque (Masjid) laying plain to the earth and near to that my house gutted. I felt unconscious that time and when I came back in senses I came to know I had lost my whole family” says Khan who is presently 70. Khans lost his three sons, a daughter and his wife in the devastating earthquake of 2005 and left only are his memories. He presently lives in the same house which was totally damaged during the earthquake but now he has managed to rebuild it but couldn’t see his family again. Khan says he has never seen such horrible in his life. “I live near to LoC and have witnessed fierce shelling and very bad weather too but in my whole life I never saw such horrible atmosphere when I saw the whole earth shaking like never before” says Khan with fear still filled in his eyes.
For Khan he lost his everything in that earthquake and that too he can never ever recollect but to Mohammad Sultan of Lachipora, Uri nothing matters now. Sultan, a laborer in profession had just made his new house after collecting every single penny during his daily hard work in the mountains of Uri but that earthquake broke his all dreams. His house collapsed like a Pack of Cards and he saw this helplessly from a distance. “I was ready to leave my home for work and my wife came to drop me to the gate. My daughter had gone to school. As I reached the gate of my house I could feel the whole earth trembling and as I turned back I could see my house kissing the earth. Everything was destroyed.” Says Sultan, in despair. Adding to his wounds the devastating earthquake made her Daughter, Salma half paralyzed forever. She survived in the earthquake but the trauma had made a space inside her leaving her half body paralyzed. Recalling the day Salma hugs her mother tightly just to say “Woh Qayamat thi (It was Judgment Day)”. Salma’s father says she hid herself beneath a bench in her classroom when the earthquake struck and when she was rescued she didn’t move her body, as told by the teachers of Salma.
Property worth millions was devastated in the earthquake and made millions to sleep shelter less nights in open sky and bone biting chill. The mostly among the hit was the women folk who lost their husbands in the earthquake. Among hundreds effected women is Saira. Sitting in a dark lit room she is holding his only son in her arms. Saira has lost her husband in that earthquake and she has now nobody to earn to run his family. His only son, Shahid doesn’t even know what happened that neither did he see. Saira was pregnant when the earthquake took his husband Altaf Khan with it. Altaf was working as a labourer in a Mosque in Uri when the roof of the mosque collapsed on Altaf killing him inside the mosque. After that day what Saira has faced is within Saira and when she recalls the aftermath of the earthquake she breaks into tears. Amid sobs she tries to express what she witnessed after 8th Oct. “After that I have slept hundreds of nights beneath open sky with my little child who was born only 13 days after the earthquake jolted the whole valley. Nobody came to my help and I with Shahid remained helpless until a Local NGO came to help. Many a times we remained without food and water too. How can I forget those haunted nights when i had to sleep with eyes open and be ready to run to safety if an aftershock struck”? Saira is now living with his only child in a one roomed house which the local NGO made for her by raising funds at local level.
Six years have passed since the deadly earthquake struck but times are still same as they were when the earthquake hit. Many people still remain in the temporary made houses because no fund or relief has been given to them. The apathy is that many schools building in Uri are still under construction and many building have not even started the work.
Raja Saleem Mohammad lost his house in the earthquake. He also like others spent nights in open sky and waited for help, but to utter disappointment nobody came forward. He even didn’t get any funds which were sent by the government for the affected ones to rebuild their houses. “I didn’t get any money from any organization so that I can make a living place for me. We are living in a temporary shed which we made during 2005 by our own money” says Saleem. There are many others like Saleem who are still waiting for any help from the government but the only thing they have got from the last six years is hope and wait.
Sheikh Saaliq is 19. He is a freelance Journalist and chief editor of monthly magazine The Voz Kashmir (www.thevoxkashmir.in).
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