A year on from quake
IT WAS a year ago this Sunday, October 8, when Pakistan was hit by one of the biggest eqrthquakes to be recorded on the Indian sub-continent. As the morning went on the full impact of quake, which would leave over 73,000 people dead and 3.3 million left h
IT WAS a year ago this Sunday, October 8, when Pakistan was hit by one of the biggest eqrthquakes to be recorded on the Indian sub-continent.
As the morning went on the full impact of quake, which would leave over 73,000 people dead and 3.3 million left homeless, became worldwide news.
Immediately, governments and individuals responded to what had become a humanitarian nightmare trying to help the survivors rebuild their shattered lives with shelters and medical aid.
Comet readers were among those who showed outstanding generosity, responding to our appeal for tents and blankets to be airlifted to the region.
Donations poured into our Stevenage office with all the items being ferried to a departure point by Ace Taxis.
The appeal was so wonderful it even attracted regional TV companies who came to our offices to film the vast amount of donations.
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Comet editor Darren Isted said at the time: "We have been staggered by the response of readers to this appeal.
"Our front office has seen a constant flow of readers bringing in life-saving items. It really is amazing just how people can respond so quickly to a crisis."
A year on from the earthquake, that registered 7.6 on the Richter scale, 1.8 million people continue to live in either tents or temporary shelters.
According to Pakistani authorities, by mid-September only 17 per cent of the 450,000 affected households had begun building permanent homes.
The parents of Stevenage taxi driver Zia Khan have still to begin rebuilding their home in Muzaffarabad, a town that was completely devastated by the quake.
Zia's sister, a teacher, died in a school but miraculously his father, mother and younger brother survived.
Zia had only arrived in Britain on October 1 and immediately he heard of the quake he caught a flight home.
"When the quake struck, my mother was in the garden watering the plants. Dad was asleep in the house with my younger brother and the house collapsed," said Mr Khan, who lives in Luton.
"My brother was trapped for one-and-a- half hours but Dad was lucky to jump out of the house before it collapsed.
"My sister who died had gone to a local school where she was a teacher. She had left home early that morning for the school and died with many others there.
"When I eventually got home it was just a pile of rubble and we still haven't been able to build a new home. My family is living in a temporary home made of fibre materials but it is better than a tent."
Mr Khan keeps in contact with his family every few days by phone and email and added: "Things are getting back to normal but it is very slow.
"Whole towns and villages have not been rebuilt and once again winter is coming so there will still be a lot of suffering.
"But the events of a year ago will be with me for the rest of my life."
Noreen Akhter-Rehman of Ace Taxis, who has more than 150 family members in Pakistan, also reflected on the plight of people a year on from the quake.
"The rebuilding programme is quite slow and people are still struggling with life, especially health issues," said Mrs Akhter-Rehman, who recently sent 20 wheelchairs to Pakistan.
"People are trying to get their lives back to normal but it is very difficult.
"One must remember this is a Third World country and things cannot be done quickly. The country still needs a lot of help and it will be many years before things get back to normal."
The plight of the quake victims was reflected this week when a spokesman for Oxfam told The Comet: "The urgency at the moment is to ensure that those in tents and temporary shelters are given support to withstand another winter.
"The scale of the catastrophe, difficult mountainous terrain, poor infrastructure, extreme weather conditions, problems with disseminating public information, as well as gaps in support for certain vulnerable groups, have hindered the pace of reconstruction."
If you wish to find out more about supporting the Pakistan earthquake appeal, call 0870 333 2700 or donate online at www.oxfam.org.uk