Rebuilding Lives: The Aftermath of the South Asia Earthquake

By Stipe, Jim | Journal of International Affairs, Spring-Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Rebuilding Lives: The Aftermath of the South Asia Earthquake


Stipe, Jim, Journal of International Affairs


I arrived in Pakistan just one week after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck northern Pakistan and India on 8 October 2005, killing approximately 73,000 individuals in Pakistan and another 1,300 in India. (1) In terms of lasting impact, this tragic event is perhaps the largest natural disaster in modern history. Though the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more people, the earthquake left approximately 2.8 million people homeless--more than three times as many as the tsunami--and approximately 69,000 people severely injured, including thousands of amputees. Wage earners were lost through death or injury, water and sanitation systems were damaged or destroyed, incidence of infectious diseases increased and over ten thousand schools were destroyed, precipitating a wide range of long-term problems. (2)

Many factors hindered relief efforts:

* Hundreds of thousands of those left homeless live in villages scattered across steep mountains and remote valleys. Many villages are at least an hour's walk from the nearest road, often accessible only by foot, mule or helicopter.

* Due to landslides in the aftermath of the earthquake and subsequent tremors, many roads were blocked or destroyed, making it difficult to move supplies or reach injured people quickly.

* Winter was fast approaching, sparking a race against time to save the lives of millions facing harsh weather without adequate shelter, clothing, food and medicine.

* As weather conditions deteriorated, heavy rainfall, poor visibility and mudslides often prevented helicopters and trucks from delivering relief supplies.

As a photographer, I traveled through earthquake-affected areas in Paldstan to document the response to this disaster. The following photographs capture some of my experiences.

A mother waits with her ailing daughter to see a doctor at a medical camp set up by the American Refugee Committee.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

1. Damage in the cities was often more dangerous than in the villages, as large buildings such as this one in Muzaffarabad collapsed, causing large numbers of deaths. 2. The second floor of this school building collapsed inward, leaving nothing but fallen bricks and the wooden frame. Fortunately, none of the students were injured, but throughout the affected areas over thirty thousand children died when similar school buildings collapsed on them. 3. A completely flattened building in the town of Bagh--a scene repeated a thousand times over. 4. The earthquake not only damaged this bridge but also completely wiped away the road on the other side. As this road was the only link between several villages, people began making a foot path where it used to be.

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

Faraz Khurshid, age 7, lives in the village of Ratnoi, which was badly damaged by the earthquake.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Relief workers conduct an assessment in a village to determine the community's housing needs. Bottom: Working with translators and an adequate supply of medicines, a team of Czech doctors from People In Need treats patients at the American Refugee Committee medical camp.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

At a helicopter pad in Kashmir, the Pakistani army unloads relief supplies from a UN helicopter. …

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