An earthquake of high-intensity has devastated sections of Balochistan adjoining the capital, Quetta. Centred near Harnai district, the tremors were felt far-off across the backward and desolate province. Reports put the death toll well over 25, with hundreds badly bruised and injured. Extensive damage to homes and infrastructure has also been reported. Dozens of coalminers are also believed to be trapped. While relief efforts were forthcoming, it was still beyond comprehension as to where and what is needed in this hour of crisis in the sporadic calamity-hit region.
The provincial home minister’s claim that five to six districts were affected on a major scale, necessitating relief operations on a war-footing basis. The blessing in disguise is that authorities seemed to be well on mark, and were seen in coordination with the disaster management authority and law-enforcement agencies, moving the injured and evacuating the trapped ones. The fact that the quake triggered landsliding in mountainous areas has made rescue an altogether difficult task at the moment. Moreover, the terrain at places is inaccessible, which has led to fears of many more being trapped in debris. The absence of communication signals has further compounded the misery.
Seismic disasters, as well as flooding, are unpredictable but damage-control is a science in itself. Pakistan in the last many decades had been a theatre of uncertainty owing to train accidents, flash flooding, and disasters such as quakes and, of course, terrorism. The onus of succor and instant relief always falls on our security forces which, by virtue of their mobilisation perfection and training, have been a blessing in disguise. The 8th October 2005 earthquake in Kashmir is a case in point.
But nations learn by virtue of precedents and resilience. Though the government over the period of time has astutely come up with an authority on disaster management, it needs vibrancy and real-time coordination. It is incumbent upon the civil society and the governmental departments, especially health and logistics, to prepare contingency plans to meet such emergencies. Apart from providing utmost relief and medical facilities to the Harnai tremor victims, what is reminded is of their assured rehabilitation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2021.
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