Quake-hit Pakistani town still lives in fear

By Awais Saleem, IANS,

Quetta : People in Sorab, a small town with a population of around 5,000 in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, have been living in fear and anguish for almost two and a half months as help from the government has been insufficient in the aftermath of a strong earthquake in August that shattered their lives.

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Sorab is situated in Qalat district, 140 km from Balochistan’s capital Quetta, which recovered from a magnitude 5.7 earthquake on the night between Aug 15 and 16. Several houses were demolished in the earthquake and many others developed cracks and are not liveable any more.

The residents escaped without any casualties because most of the houses were small huts constructed with mud. “This was still our shelter and could save us from the hard times but we are out now under the open sky,” said a resident named Bashir.

The advent of the chilly winter season in the rugged mountains of Balochistan, which has one of the extreme weather conditions in the country, is giving residents sleepless nights.

“Our families are shelterless and have no warm clothes to cover themselves,” said Bakht Ali, head of another affected family.

However, the provincial government has not moved even an inch, although the tragedy occurred two and a half months ago.

The provincial seismic centre reportedly ordered a survey of the region to find out the reasons for continuous aftershocks.

Balochistan minister Zafarullah Zehri, who hails from the region, has announced a grant of Rs.1 million but even this has not reached the affected families till now.

Assistant commissioner of Qalat district Abdul Qadir Parkani, when contacted by IANS, merely said “the local administration has written to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to provide tents for the affected families”.

When asked who will be responsible for any loss of life because of this delay, the official did not answer.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) operates through its provincial wings to provide relief to such affected people, but questions have been raised on their performance during the recent floods as well that left over 20 million people homeless.

The NDMA was established, after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir that killed over 73,000 people, for the specific purpose of coordinating relief activities.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at [email protected])