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Kashmir earthquake memories continue to haunt victims

Kashmir earthquake memories continue to haunt victims
Eyes damp and melancholic, residents honor over 80,000 victims who died in cataclysmic tremors 14 years on

By Aamir Latif and Islamuddulin Sajid

ISLAMABAD/ KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Thousands thronged the central graveyard in Muzaffarabad -- the capital of Pakistani administered Kashmir -- on Tuesday to pray for their loved ones who were killed in a massive earthquake that struck the valley and other parts of Pakistan 14 years ago.

With eyes damp and an air of melancholic remembrance, they honored over 80,000 victims who had died on Oct. 8, 2005, in the worst ever earthquake that hit the region in recent history.

Rumbling tremors destroyed thousands of homes and government buildings as well as infrastructure, including bridges and roads, apart from injuring thousands.

The day began with a mass prayer in Muzaffarabad attended by hundreds, including government and judicial functionaries.

Congregations were also held in Bagh, Rawlakot, Bhimber, Mirpur, and other parts of the valley, also known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir,.

The Mirpur and Bhimber districts were also hit by a strong earthquake last month, killing 40 people, and injured over 800, a grim reminder of October 2005 tremor.

In a message on the 14th anniversary of disastrous quake, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed that his government would work until the rehabilitation of the last victim.

President of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, said in a statement that the catastrophe that hit the valley and parts of Pakistan -- claiming the lives of thousands of children, young people, women and elderly as well as destroying public and private property -- was still fresh in memory.

- Unforgettable

Many still clearly remember the grim memories of the catastrophe.

"It is an unforgettable memory. I am afraid I won't be able to scratch that from my mind until death," Zahid Abbas, a survivor of the earthquake, told Anadolu Agency.

Abbas lost ten members of his family, including his father and brother who could not escape their home on time.

"It's been 14 years but I still remember how the earth jolted, buildings and houses shaken, and roads torn apart" said Abbas, wearing a wispy gray beard and matching hair, adding: "This all has permanently settled in my mind."

Zia-ur-Rehman, a resident of Balakot town in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa -- another badly hit area by the earthquake -- said: "I don't want to remember that day when our city was completely destroyed, hundreds of houses and schools collapsed and we lost thousands of people."

Rehman had lost 60 members of his extended family including his grandfather, grandmother and many close relatives.

"Many of our relatives suffered mental diseases as they lost their houses and businesses," he went on to say.

"We still feel the pain and fear aggravated by last month's earthquake in Mirpur," he said, adding that many residents of Balakot, including himself, spent nights sleeping on roads after Mirpur earthquake due to fear that another convulsion would hit further north.

Pakistan is located in the seismically active Indus -- Tsangpo Suture Zone, which is roughly 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of the Himalaya Front and has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

- Rehabilitation

Pakistan and Azad Kashmir backed by international donors and government's launched a massive drive to rehabilitate survivors and the reconstruction of infrastructure. However, locals appeared to be unsatisfied with the developments.

"It's been 40 years but not even the first stone of hundreds of reconstruction projects has been placed," Abbas Gardezi, a local journalist told Anadolu Agency.

A government official in Muzaffarabad, wishing not to be named, seconded Gardezi's view.

He said some 900 projects aiming to rebuild hundreds of schools and hospital buildings, had yet to be completed.

Tahir Abbasi, a resident of Bagh district voiced a similar view.

"The government has fulfilled 60% of it's promises in 14 years. Scores of schools and hospital buildings have yet to be repaired in Bagh," he told Anadolu Agency.

source: News Feed
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