Jan 26

Rulers turn deaf ear to problems of quake affected areas: Ejaz Afzal

BAGH: President of Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal and Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Azad Kashmir Sardar Ejaz Afzal Khan has said that rulers have no interest in problems of the earthquake affectees which is condemnable.

He expressed these views while talking to the delegations of public and flood affectees here on Friday. He said that two and half years have passed and the affectees have not got the relief fund which means that claims of the government are false. Affectees should immediately be paid the remaining installments of the relief fund as severe snowfall and heavy rains have added to the difficulties of the people hit by the devastated earthquake, he added.

He said that the rulers should take steps to remove the problems of the people instead of raising empty slogans. Instead of rehabilitating them, rulers are putting salt to the wounds of the earthquake affectees by their actions, he added. He said that Jamaat-e-Islami is struggling for the rights of the people. The rulers, he said, will have to give right direction to their actions. He said that Jamaat-e-Islami will take direct action if the rulers do not change their attitude and violators of human rights will be exposed at every level.

He said that government of the independent territory has miserably failed in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process of the earthquake. Government is neither interested in the problems and difficulties of the people, nor it took remedies to tackle thses problems. He said that Jamaat-e-Islami will launch a strong movement against the puppet rulers if they do not solve the problems of the people.-SANA

Jan 21

World Bank lauds housing reconstruction in quake-hit north

ISLAMABAD: Rural housing reconstruction is proceeding well in northern Pakistan, the World Bank believes, more than two years after a devastating earthquake struck the area. In addition to seismic-resistant construction now taking root in the mountainous region, owner-driven reconstruction and rehabilitation of some 560,000 damaged or destroyed homes has begun and is now in various stages of completion.

“The progress has been really remarkable,” Shabnaz Arshad, team leader for the Bank’s rural housing reconstruction programme said. “It has been a very challenging task,” she said, citing the costs, the sheer scale of the destruction, and the difficult terrain across the 30,000sqkm affected area.

Despite those challenges, progress has proved far better than earlier perceived, the Bank official said, referring to similar housing reconstruction schemes in tsunami-stricken Indonesia and Sri Lanka, as well as in post-earthquake Turkey and Gujarat (India) - some of which have been only partially successful.

Her comments follow a one month Bank mission to the quake-affected area to assess the government’s rural housing reconstruction efforts, progress and implementation. The mission, which ended on 15 January, deemed the government project “highly satisfactory”; the highest rating the bank can give for a given project - and a significant achievement given the quake’s magnitude.

More than 75,000 people were killed and 3.5 million rendered homeless when the 7.6 magnitude quake struck the country’s North West Frontier Province and Pakistani-administered Kashmir on 8 October 2005. In response, the government created the Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA) and launched an ambitious US$1.5 billion owner-driven rebuilding programme - largely suited to the mainly rural affected population.

Using their own labour or craftsmen of their choice, beneficiaries are also provided with technical advice and assistance to follow construction standards needed for a high seismic-risk zone. Under ERRA’s Rural Housing and Reconstruction Programme (RHRP), partially funded by the World Bank, homeowners are given over US$3,000 in instalments to build quake-resistant homes - with routine visits by inspection teams to ensure compliance to agreed seismic-resistant standards.

At the outset of the programme, over 450 three-person teams conducted the Damage and Eligibility Verification Survey - constituting a house-to-house visit to assess the extent of damage against technical criteria and verify beneficiary eligibility.

According to Arshad, of the initial 463,000 homes to be reconstructed under the plan, significant progress has already been made: The RHRP has disbursed over $1.1 billion to programme beneficiaries or 75 percent of the overall $1.5 billion estimated cost, she said. As of December 2007, 99 percent of beneficiaries had received the second grant tranches; 67 percent the third; and 23 percent the fourth and final tranches, she said.

Those who have received the full grant have completed 70,000-75,000 homes so far. According to the Bank’s latest formal assessment, the fourth in the past two years, 42 percent of the houses to be reconstructed were now certified at the lintel level, and 80 percent at the plinth level.

Moreover, ERRA expects to complete - either through reconstruction or retrofitting - around 550,000 homes by the quake’s third anniversary in 2008, with full completion by late 2009. Evidence is also emerging that a culture of seismic-resistant construction is gradually taking hold: The aggregate seismic compliance rates are 93 percent for plinth level and 77 percent for lintel level.

“Compliance rates are good and impressive, but there is certainly room for improvement,” Arshad said, stressing the need to promote and sustain a culture of voluntary seismic compliance in housing reconstruction in the quake-affected area. Experts agree that poor quality building construction killed more people than the quake itself - a natural hazard converted into a man-made disaster, she added.-SANA

Jan 20

Attique briefs Zulqarnain about reconstruction, rehabilitation process

MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan called on AJK President Raja Muhammad Zulqarnain Khan here on Tuesday and briefed him about the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in the earthquake damaged areas. Raja Zulqarnain expressed satisfaction over the reconstruction process and said that Muzaffarabad would emerge as an up-to-date and the most beautiful capital in the world. He said the new constructions would be done keeping in view the demands of the present time.

He said we had no dearth of funds as an investment of Rs 23 billion was underway. If more funds were needed, the same would be arranged at every cost, he added. He said that Chairman of Capital Development Authority, Islamabad would soon visit Muzaffarabad as we wanted to benefit from his experience. Referring to various projects under hand, he said that it was our effort that the new hospitals, roads, basic health units, universities and other educational institutions were of international standards. He stressed that construction of the world standard would also be maintained in future as well.

The dark night was over, he said, adding that daylight was emerging now. He said that Rs 10 millions were being spent on the construction of each primary school. He once again thanked the Army and people of Pakistan for extending a helping hand to their Kashmir brethren after the October 8 earthquake. He also lauded the effected people who bravely faced the difficulties emerging after the earthquake.

Zulqarnain said that the effected people had recovered in the shortest possible time on which the rest of the world was surprised. He said even the superpowers like the US were helpless to face natural disasters. The president said that he had briefed the president of Pakistan about the difficulties and problems being faced by the Mangla Dam effected people and the President had assured to resolve their problems.

“Rs 6 million would be required for rehabilitation of additional families,” he said, adding that the construction of Dhangali Bridge would remove the restlessness among the people. He assured that water level in Mangla Dam would not be raised unless the rehabilitation of the effected people.-SANA

Jan 08

Strong quake hits Greece, no casualties reported

ATHENS - An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale struck Greece on Sunday, shaking people out of bed and sending panic-stricken villagers into the streets but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The quake woke residents in the capital Athens, where 143 people were killed in 1999 by an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale. Greece is often rattled by earthquakes, most causing no serious damage.

Sunday’s strong jolt prompted people in several cities to call emergency services. Police said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. “The house was shaking badly,” a woman from the northern Athens suburb of Maroussi told a radio station.

Officials said the epicentre of the quake was near the town of Leonidio on the Peloponnese peninsula. “At 7:14 a.m. (0514 GMT) there was a strong earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale, 150 km (90 miles) south, southwest of Athens,” said George Drakatos from the Athens Observatory that monitors quakes.

Seismologists said the quake was about 80 km (50 miles) deep and that explained why it had not caused serious damage. The deadly 1999 Athens earthquake was closer to the earth’s surface. The U.S. Geological Survey said on its website that the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.1.

“There was panic and small items fell in households but there was no serious damage,” said the deputy mayor of Leonidio, Ilias Manos. “People rushed out to the streets but everything is normal now. “It was a very strong earthquake but we’ve communicated with the surrounding villages and until this moment there is no problem,” he told Greek television.

Greek media said they had received calls from people who felt the quake in several towns, mainly in the south and on Aegean Sea islands. (Reporting by Dina Kyriakidou, editing by Myra MacDonald)
original source

Jan 07

Magnitude-6.7 quake hits near B.C. coast

Source: CTV.ca
A “strong” underwater earthquake occurred off the coast of B.C. early Saturday morning, registering a magnitude of 6.7.

The quake, the second of three to strike in the same area early this morning, hit at about 3:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time Saturday, said Guy Urban of the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

The original quake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.3, Urban told CTV Newsnet.

“We thought nothing of it, put out an information statement on it, and approximately 20 minutes later the larger quake came in with a preliminary magnitude of 6.7, and that was located almost in the same spot about 135 miles (241 kilometres) southwest of Sandspit, Queen Charlotte Islands.”

Urban said there is little or no chance of a tsunami occurring, but officials followed standard procedure and released a “tsunami information statement high” to make people aware that a quake had taken place.

“A damaging tsunami IS NOT expected along the California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska coasts,” says the statement from the centre. “Some of these areas may experience non-damaging sea level changes. At coastal locations which have experienced strong ground shaking, local tsunamis are possible due to underwater landslides.”

The underwater quake registering a magnitude of 6.7 could easily cause major damage were it to occur on land, Urban said.

“It would probably cause walls to crack and probably concrete foundations to tumble a little bit, so it could be fairly devastating. It’s called a strong earthquake so it’s large enough to cause some damage.”

Urban said underwater earthquakes of 30 seconds or more have the potential to cause a tsunami.

“The general rule of thumb is if people are in or near the water when an earthquake occurs and it lasts for more than 30 seconds they should go to high ground because there’s a possibility a tsunami could have been generated.”