A view of a roadblock caused by a landslide in Gilgit-Baltistan region. -Photo courtesy Hussain Nagri
A view of a roadblock caused by a landslide in Gilgit-Baltistan region. – Photo courtesy Hussain Nagri

On 08th October 2005, I was taking my SAT exam at Avari Hotel Lahore, Pakistan, when suddenly the hall started shaking ferociously.

The magnificent glass chandeliers above us moved from left to right, the tables started crackling and frantic eyes of 100 plus students and supervisors in the hall spoke of nothing but sheer fear. Fear of dying in a concrete box amidst floors above and below us in this five star hotel.

80,000 people died in 2005 earthquake measuring 7.6 which struck Kashmir and Northern areas heavily but affected life and property all across the region. There were 200,000 people injured and more than four million people left homeless. The main quake was followed by more than 978 aftershocks until October 27th.

It’s sad how humans are eventually just reduced to statistics in such calamities. A friend lost her grandmother, I lost a friend who went to Kashmir but never returned back and our local constituency voters, wife’s whole city, Balakot was in rubble; everyone she ever knew was gone…

Earthquakes are scary and the after-shocks of these catastrophes are scarier, both literally and metaphorically.

Pakistani federal employees gather outside their offices after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Islamabad on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude quake struck Afghanistan's Hindu Kush region on October 26 and was felt throughout much of South Asia, injuring more than 100 people in neighbouring Pakistan according to a doctor. AFP PHOTO / Farooq NAEEM
Pakistani federal employees gather outside their offices after an earthquake in Islamabad on October 26, 2015.

On October 26th 2015, a decade later, I was working at home and felt the same terror. Except this time, the chandelier was replaced by the ceiling fan above my head and the only frantic eyes were my own. It brought back a lot of painful memories on a personal and a national level. It is being termed as the biggest ever earthquake of 8.1 magnitude that hit the country at 14:11:40 Pakistan Standard Time in Punjab, KPK and Azad Kashmir.

Lahore and its surrounding areas were jolted with earthquake shocks, Waqt News reported. The tremors were felt in Islamabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot and other Punjab regions.

Moreover, cities in Khyber Pakhtun Khuwa (KP) also faced the earth shocks According to Reuters the magnitude of the quake in northern areas was 7.7 according to United States Geological Survey.

“The epicentre is believed to be in Hindukush mountain range. The quake was 193 km underground. It is the most severe earthquake in the history of Pakistan. On October 8, 2005 quake to hit upcountry in Kashmir and KPK was of 7.6 magnitude. It caused huge devastation and about 100,000 lost their lives. May God have mercy this earthquake may also cause devastation,” Sahibdad Khan Director MET Office said in a statement to various newspapers.

Khan warned that there may be aftershocks considering the big magnitude of this earthquake. Over 200 people have been reported to been killed in Northern Pakistan and figures are still being updated.

Earthquake, 26th October 2015.
Earthquake, 26th October 2015.

If you were born and grew up in Pakistan, you would know how common earthquakes are. There have been over 40 major earthquakes from 1971 till present. However, the only 2 deadly ones have been October 2005 and now October 2015. These earthquakes cannot be predicted and can happen anytime, therefore, it is better to know what to do during those tense seconds!

Outdoors – Try and stay away from erect buildings, houses, wires, transformers and construction sites.

Indoors – DO NOT run outside as injuries occur from falling debris while running. It is advised to duck, cover, and hold on, according to the US Geological Survey.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) advises that if you are indoors, you should:

  • If you are unable to move out of building get under heavy furniture such as a table, desk, bed or any other solid furniture, and cover your head and chest
  • Hold on to the object you are under and be prepared to move with the object until the shaking has finished.
  • If you can’t get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, flatten yourself or bend against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms.
  • If you are in a shopping mall, go into the nearest store. Stay away from windows, and shelves with heavy objects.
  • If you are at school, get under a desk or table and hold on.
  • If you are in a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your head and neck

On the move/ Driving – It is best to stop the car in an open area (not next to a road cut, where debris may fall) and wait till the earthquake stops.

Things NOT TO DO during an earthquake:

  1. DO NOT turn on the gas again if you turned it off
  2. DO NOT use matches, lighters, camp stoves or barbecues, electrical equipment, appliances UNTIL you are sure there are no gas leaks. They may create a spark that could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion and fire
  3. DO NOT use your telephone, EXCEPT for a medical or fire emergency. You could tie up the lines needed for emergency response. If the phone doesn’t work send someone for help.

It is better to educate ourselves and those around us especially the help at home and people who are not literate enough. Spread the word as aftershocks are expected to hit for the next few weeks.

We see people posting touching statuses on social media which is kind and compassionate. However, what we actually need is awareness at this stage followed by assistance in facilitating the government and army in relief and rescue efforts once we have more updates on the impact of the disaster.

Actions speak louder than words. Let’s try and do our bit.

Love,

Cheeni

2 comments on “Earthquakes in Pakistan; a personal insight and things to/not to do.”

  1. Good to hear you’re OK.

    Most people her in the Lower Mainland of BC haven’t got a clue to do in an earthquake. When the local TV news team ask people about they just laugh nervously and say the ‘should’ do something.

    I don’t get it personally, but that’s humans for you.

    • Thanks so much for reaching out and as always reading my posts!
      All good and been travelling so haven’t had a chance to reply earlier. Hope all well with you x

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