Apr 26

Turabi urges PM not to stop payment to quake affectees

Former Amir Jamaat-e-Islami AJK and EX. Member AJK Assembly Abdur Rashid Turabi has said stopping payment to earthquake stricken people of Bagh and Azad Jummu and Kashmir is injustice as the rules and regulations regarding the payment has been issued when majority of the affectees has built their houses.

In a letter to the Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, he has said that problems of the affectees should be immediately resolved, otherwise, they would organize a long March on May 11. In the letter Abur Rashid Turabi says, “The Fault is on the part of ERRA and other concerned officials as they have been issuing different code of conduct on different occasions.” He writes that the affectees are more perplexed when authorities apply double standard in this regard.

A strong protest was already staged under the auspices of Awami Action Forum Bagh and the authorities were urged to resolve the issue but no sincere effort had been made, he added. He hoped that the new government under dynamic leadership of the Prime Minister will take stock of the situation immediately.

Apr 21

New govt serious about reconstruction of quake-hit areas: Saleem

ISLAMABAD: Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) Chairman Altaf Saleem has said the new government is actively pursuing the reconstruction of quake-hit areas in NWFP and Azad Kashmir. Addressing a conference here on Saturday, he assured the donors that the development projects started in the affected areas will be implemented and completed within the prescribed time frame.

Giving a detailed account of the achievements made so far in the quake affected areas; Deputy Chairman Nadeem Ahmad said that more than Rs.57.50 had been disbursed among the affectees for their rehabilitation and reconstruction of houses. He said the housing programme will be completed by June this year. He said the authority had also distributed about five billion rupees to the vulnerable people under the livelihood cash grant programme.

Nadeem Ahmad said significant progress had also been made in the health, education, sanitation, water supply and road infrastructure projects. He said a programme had been envisaged to construct roads at a cost of twenty nine million rupees. Referring to the concerns shown by some organizations, he said the security situation in the affected areas was improving after the new government took charge.

Donors — various organizations — appreciated the reconstruction activities and said they will facilitate the new government and ERRA for the successful completion of the reconstruction phase.

Apr 11

Quake Kills Thousands in South Asia

Azhar Masood & Huma Aamir Malik, Arab News

ISLAMABAD, 9 October 2005 – A massive earthquake struck South Asia triggering landslides, toppling an apartment building and flattening villages of mud-brick homes near the border between Pakistan and India yesterday, killing several thousand people in a wide swath of devastation. Pakistan’s dead included 400 schoolchildren crushed by rubble when their schools collapsed, and 200 soldiers on duty in Pakistani Kashmir. For hours, aftershocks from the 7.6-magnitude quake rippled across the region as rescue teams struggled to clear piles of debris in a desperate search for survivors. Hospitals evacuated quake victims, some hooked up to intravenous drips, onto their lawns, fearing tremors could cause more damage. As night fell, rain and hail disrupted the recovery effort.

Pakistan absorbed most of the destruction. In the northern town of Mansehra, a shopowner named Haji Fazal Ilahi stood vigil over the body of his 14-year-old daughter, which lay under a sheet on a hospital mattress. He said his wife, a daughter and a brother also perished in the debris of their home.

“I could see rocks and homes tumbling down the mountains,” said Ilahi, who was driving to his village of Garlat when the quake struck. “When I reached my village, there was nothing left of my home.”

In a show of solidarity, India offered assistance and condolences to its longtime rival, Pakistan. The neighbors, who are engaged in a peace process, have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947, two of them over the divided region of Kashmir that was devastated in the quake.

“While parts of India have also suffered from this unexpected natural disaster, we are prepared to extend any assistance with rescue and relief which you may deem appropriate,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a message to Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. A senior Pakistani Army official said 200 soldiers died in Pakistani Kashmir. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. About 1,000 civilians died in the region, said Sardar Mohammed Anwar, the top government official in the area.

“This is my conservative guess, and the death toll could be much higher,” Anwar told Pakistan’s Aaj television station. He said most homes in Muzaffarabad, the area’s capital, were damaged, and schools and hospitals collapsed.

At least 1,600 people died in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, said Akram Durrani, the province’s top elected official. Ataullah Khan Wazir, police chief in the northwestern district of Mansehra, said authorities there pulled the bodies of 250 students from a girls’ school that collapsed. “This tragic incident happened in Ghari Habibibullah,” a district village, he said. About 500 students were injured. Dozens of children were feared killed in other schools.

In the capitals of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, buildings shook and walls swayed for about a minute, and panicked people ran from their homes and offices. Communications throughout the region were cut.”It is a national tragedy,” said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan’s chief army spokesman. “This is the worst earthquake in recent times.” He put the casualty figure in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir at several thousand dead.

The United Nations said it was working with Pakistan, Afghanistan and India on an emergency response to the quake. The US Geological Survey said on its website that the quake hit at 8:50 a.m. local time and had a magnitude of 7.6. It was centered about 95 kilometers northeast of Islamabad in the forested mountains of Pakistani Kashmir.

Damage was extensive in Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan. Officials in the Indian-controlled portion reported at least 250 people killed, including 20 soldiers who perished in a landslide. At least 800 people were injured and about 2,700 homes were destroyed or damaged across Jammu-Kashmir, said senior state official B.B. Vyas.

Army soldiers and local volunteers rescued people from under the debris of collapsed houses. Telephone lines were down. Bridges had developed cracks, but traffic was passing over them. Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz ordered the Pakistani military to extend “all-out help” to quake-hit areas and appealed to the nation to stay calm. Helicopters and C-130 transport planes took troops and supplies to damaged areas, but landslides were hindering rescue efforts.

The quake brought down a 10-story apartment building in Islamabad, and at least 10 people died. The dead included an Egyptian diplomat, hospital doctors said. The Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said two Japanese were among the dead. At least 126 survivors were being treated in hospitals. A man named Rehmatullah who lived nearby said he saw dust from the buckled building from his bathroom window. “I rushed down, and for some time you could not see anything because of the dust. Then we began to look for people in the rubble,” he said. “We pulled out one man by cutting off his legs.”

“It was like hell,” said Nauman Ali, who lived in a nearby top-floor apartment. “I was tossed up in my bed and the ceiling fan struck against the roof.” Aided by two large cranes, hundreds of police and soldiers helped remove chunks of concrete, one of which was splattered with blood. One rescue worker said he initially heard faint cries from people trapped in the rubble. In Abbotabad, north of Islamabad, dozens of injured quake victims and other patients lay on the lawn of the city hospital as staff with loudspeakers appealed to the public for food and other relief supplies.

One of the injured was an 8-year-old boy, Qadeer, whose father, a farmer named Jehangir, said the only buildings left standing in their village were a mosque and a school. Qadeer lay unconscious, his right leg heavily bandaged. Authorities brought dozens of bodies to a damaged sports stadium in Muzaffarabad, and laid them on the ground under sheets.

In eastern Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl was crushed to death when a wall in her home collapsed, said police official Gafar Khan. US military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara said the quake was felt at Bagram, the main American base in Afghanistan, but he had no reports of damage at bases around the country. The quake also jolted parts of Bangladesh, but no casualties or damage were reported there.

This is an old story published on Arab News; for the readers i found it very touchy and true commentary.

Apr 07

Earthquakes Hit Remote Aleutian Islands

ANCHORAGE, Alaska: Several earthquakes have jolted various sections of Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says three light quakes struck early Sunday. Officials say the quakes ranged in magnitudes between 4.2 and 4.7.

The center says a moderate earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 occurred late Saturday night in the Rat Islands region of the Aleutians. There are no immediate reports that any of the quakes were felt or caused any damage.

Source : The Associated Press

Apr 06

France gives Rs. 382 Million for quake-hit areas of NWFP and Azad Kashmir: FO

ISLAMABAD: France has given an aid of Rs. 382 Million for the quak-hit areas of NWFP and Azad Kashmir Foreign Office revealed here Sunday.

France gave Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority this amount to construct homes for the affected people. French embassy in Pakistan also informed that France would provide Rs. 1 billion in financial assistance in line with meeting the pledge made by it of giving financial assistance to Pakistan for rehabilitation of the quake-hit areas in the north of the country.

Mar 20

ERRA adding insult to affectees’ injuries: MMA

RAWALPINDI: President Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami AJK, Sardar Ijaz Afzal Khan, has said Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) is adding insult to the injuries of quake affectees.

Talking to various delegations of the quake affectees here, he said that ERRA was more complicating problems of the affectees and torturing them instead of facilitating them. He said that demanding submission of applications for third and final installment of aid for construction of houses is tantamount to deriding the affectees.

He said all the money should have been paid in one installment so that the affectees could have constructed their houses with ease. On the contrary such a method for providing the aid was adopted that has been deemed as a severely torture to the affectees, he added. The MMA leader said that ERRA and SERRA first proposed a design and then changed it; as a result the affectees had to demolish the newly constructed houses and then reconstructed these in accordance with the changed designs.

Mr. Khan urged ERRA not to demand bonds of the affectess for getting the aid as it would manifold problems of the helpless people, many of whom are widows and children. He warned ERRA to change its behavior otherwise the affected people would have no option other than staging protests and JI will join them for corrective action.

Mar 04

Major quake May Hit Kashmir: Warn Experts

SRINAGAR: With Kashmir experiencing mild tremors during the past few days, experts here have not ruled out a major earthquake hitting the occupied Kashmir in near future. The experts say that the frequency of earthquakes gives an indication of a major catastrophe in the distant future.

Geological expert, Dr Mohammad Ismail Bhat said, “We are living in an active seismic zone and with frequent tremors, some pressure is building within the faultlines, which indicates that a major earthquake may hit Kashmir in the distant future”. The Project Coordinator UNDP/ Disaster Management Cell, Kashmir, Aamir Ali said there is no conclusion about a major tremblor taking place in Kashmir that can be drawn just because there has been mild tremors occurring here during the past few days.

The mild tremors were experienced on Fridan and Saturday. Prior to that, a mild quake was also experienced on Feburary 20 and 25. After these tremors, the rumours are afloat in Srinagar that a major quake may hit Kashmir anytime now.”Earthquakes cannot be predicted despite research being done worldwide in this regard”, Aamir observed.

He underlined the fact that the people in this part of the world have to come to terms with the reality that they live in an area which falls in a seismically highly sensitive zone.He added that the people need to develop proper understanding surrounding this fact and they need to cooperate with the government to avoid confusions and misinformation rather than adding to the problems by causing panic among people.

“We have to accept that we are living in an earthquake prone area, when and where an earthquake will strike and what will be its magnitude, is only known to the Almighty. We must take enough precautions to avoid large-scale devastation in the eventuality of a disaster. Despite these precautions, future earthquakes may still cause damage to buildings”, added Aamir.-SANA

Feb 07

Crisis in quake affected areas over, life back to normal: ERRA

ISLAMABAD: A review conference was told here on Thursday that the period of crisis in the quake affected areas is over and the life has returned back to normal almost across the entire thirty thousand square kilometer of the affected areas.

In his address Chairman ERRA Altaf Mohammad Saleem while updating the ambassadors and heads of the partner organizations on the progress made so far in the area said that the reconstruction process has reached a point that would lead towards transformation of the affected areas into modern hubs of socio-economic activities in the region.

Referring to the high rate of conversion of pledges made by the international community in the first donors’ conference the he said it reflects the confidence of the international community and the donor agencies in the quality and pace of work in the affected areas and the transparency in ERRA’s operational systems. He said that health, education, communications, water, sanitation and other facilities are fully functional, while new modern facilities are being built speedily under the vision of “Build Back Better”.

Altaf Saleem observed that a big change is seen in the construction of quality and over half a million people are now connected with the reconstruction business. This has ushered a new era of economic activities in the area which would help improve the living standards of people. He thanked the world community for their generous support, and assured that the people and the government of Pakistan with support of the international community would continue its efforts to provide better facilities to the affectees.

Briefing the participants, Deputy Chairman ERRA Lt. General Nadeem Ahmed said that the Livelihood Programme has not only enabled to check any food security issue in the entire earthquake affected area but also promoted optimum use of agricultural land, cultivation of value-added products instead of conventional crops and use of better seeds and fertilizer that has resulted in increased farm output. He said that a total of Rs 5.34 billion at the rate of Rs 3000 per month, six months and to most vulnerable families for one year have so far been disbursed among 268,000 families.

He said that 100 per cent people now have a housing solution. The housing strategy, he said, largely helped in documentation of local economy, seismically resistant construction culture, increased capacity building through training programs, improved standard of living- from mud houses to proper houses, and increased community participation through Village Reconstruction Committees.

The Deputy Chairman said that in Rural Housing Sector a total amount of Rs 53.59 billion has been disbursed among over 576,000 beneficiaries of damaged houses. In Urban Housing disbursement of Rs 2.06 billion to over 25000 beneficiaries has been made. He informed that out of 5344 damaged units, 125 have been completed, 773 are under construction and 1110 are under tendering while 2075 are under various stages of planning.

He said that due to the ERRA’s education strategy, there is a visible improvement in examination results, increased enrollment especially of girls in remote areas, improvement in learning environment and enhancement of teaching skills and school management system due to soft interventions.

In the Health sector, out of a total of 307 damaged facilities, 183 are being planned, 32 have been completed and 59 other are under construction, he informed. He said due to improved and additional health facilities along with requisite staff, better service delivery is being witnessed in the affected areas.

Lt. General Nadeem Ahmed said the road network is also getting a considerable uplifting as three national highways, 46 provincial roads and 29 bridges are under construction with an estimated cost of Rs 7.5 billion. He said that the construction of 175 kilometer of damaged highway is underway with a price tag of near six billion rupees this year. According to the revised plan, over 29 billion rupees have been envisaged to reconstruct 2393 kilometers of roads.

Describing the water supply projects, the Deputy Chairman said that out of a total of 4080 damaged schemes, 1128 have already been completed at a cost of Rs 0.385 billion, 717 schemes are under construction, 119 under tendering stage and 1316 are under designing. Twenty five sanitation and 23 solid waste management schemes are under various stages of construction, he added. He further informed that 949 government building have been planned, 281 high priority building have been approved, while 195 are under construction at a cost of Rs 1.725 billion.

He said that in the power sector, Rs 1.55 billion is being spent for the restoration and construction of infrastructure. In the Telecom sector, he said, infrastructure restoration and reconstruction is underway with a cost of Rs 630 million. He said that Rs 1.03 billion are being spent on a comprehensive Environment Recovery plan including debris removal, water shed management, agro-forestry, slope stabilization and awareness creation among the masses.

Concluding his briefing, Lt. General Nadeem Ahmed said an all encompassing, social protection program has also been launched which includes compensation for landless at a cost of three billion rupees, establishment of Legal Aid Centers at a cost of Rs 30 million and medical rehabilitation for disables at a cost of Rs 742 million.-SANA

Feb 04

Dozens killed by earthquakes in Rwanda and Congo

Two earthquakes struck hours apart in Rwanda and neighbouring Congo, killing at least 39 people, and injuring 380. A magnitude-6.0 quake struck Congo early on Sunday, according to the US Geological Survey. The second quake, which registered 5.0, hit a few hours later near the countries’ border in Rwanda’s rural Rusizi district.

“I was at home when the earthquake hit and the next thing I heard was the house falling down,” said Florence Nyiranzoga, who was airlifted to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, for treatment of her injuries. Asuma Mujawase, another victim, who was also airlifted to Kigali, said the death toll was sure to rise.

“I am sure very many people are going to die,” she said, adding that the hospital near the quake’s center was full and “people were scattered in the hospital compound.” In Rwanda, 34 people were killed and 231 wounded, according to the country’s ministry of health. Frank Mugambage, an official in the president’s office, said several people were killed when their church collapsed. Rescuers were searching for more victims.

Across the border in the lakeside Congolese city of Bukavu, the mayor Raisi Kunda said five people were killed and 149 injured. Kunda said many homes, as well as schools and churches, were damaged in the city, but the extent was not immediately clear.

The area where the earthquakes hit is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which includes a seismically active fault line. The tremors from the quake in Rwanda shook the capital, Kigali, some 125 miles away from the Rusizi district.
Source: Guardian

Feb 03

Rawalpindi-Islamabad jolted

ISLAMABAD: An earthquake of moderate intensity was felt in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad with a magnitude of 4.0 on richter scale Sunday evening.

People in some localities rushed out of their homes after the earthquake. The quake was recorded by Meteorological Centre Peshawar at 17:49 hours. The epicenter of the tremor lied about 180 km east of Peshawar in the province of Punjab.-SANA