[By Shideh] Pakistan suffered from a magnitude 6.4 earthquake today: about 500 people were killed and thousands were left homeless. I want to offer my condolences to the people of Pakistan and particularly to those who were affected. It is truly heart-breaking and it’s a shame that we still witness such losses in a century of information technology and knowledge.
Photo courtesy of Daily Nation
The tremor is reported to have flattened entire villages (click here for more detail). The earthquake struck southwest Pakistan before dawn as people were preparing for the first prayer of the day. Many evacuated their homes after the first, smaller tremor shook their houses, went outside and waited for awhile but returned back in because of cold weather. It is reported that about 20 minutes later the large earthquake hit, flattening many houses and killing hundreds.
The earthquake was located about 60km northeast of the provincial capital Quetta. Timber and mud with heavy walls are common construction materials in the area. The challenge now is to provide food and shelter to those who survived – in this cold weather. The ability of the government to respond effectively to the people’s urgent needs is questionable. Click here for news.
This earthquake affected a few villages in Pakistan, but it is yet another warning to every village and city in the region where active faults are present. All these cities will face the same fate sooner or later when the next earthquake hits (in Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, etc.). Why does it remain to be a challenge to understand the risks that we are facing and to act promptly? While we know how to build houses safely and economically, it is still extremely difficult to implement effective policies toward reducing seismic risks particularly in developing nations with unstable governments. I believe though, that grass root actions are our only hope in many of these regions. I think movements have to be deeply rooted within the population. People need to know what earthquake risk means and that there are affordable solutions to prevent such risks and only then the policies can be implemented and respected. There are many problems on the way, the most important one being that people and governments forget and hence do not feel a strong incentive to care.
People stop caring about the future of their own and their children. Immediate survival becomes the most critical concern in most families’ daily struggles and future risks become irrelevant. Economic problems due to internal inefficiencies and external sanctions, high rate of unemployment, political instabilities, lack of hope for a brighter future, and corrupt systems where honest work and education are not valued properly and an illiterate can become the head of universities and governments, are only a few examples of what would lead to general social hopelessness and awareness or interest in future. In my opinion, there are many fundamental actions that need to be taken in the entire region (and pehaps other developing nations in regions like South America) before even attempting to talk to the public about earthquake risks.