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Pakistan earthquake survivors relive trauma of 2005 disaster
by Staff Writers
Muzaffarabad, Pakistan (AFP) Oct 27, 2015

Taliban vow to help Afghanistan after deadly quake
Kabul (AFP) Oct 27, 2015 - The Taliban Tuesday urged charity organisations not to hold back in delivering aid to Afghan victims of a devastating earthquake, saying militants in the affected areas were ordered to provide "complete help".

At least 76 people were killed in Afghanistan after the powerful quake struck Monday in the Hindu Kush region, officials said, with fears that the toll could rise as the full extent of the devastation emerges.

Rescuers are battling to access some of the worst-affected areas across multiple provinces that are effectively under militant control, a huge challenge to any official aid efforts.

But the Taliban on Tuesday promised to pave access for aid organisations.

"The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) calls on... charitable organisations to not hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies to the victims of this earthquake," the group said on its website.

"It similarly orders its Mujahideen in the affected areas to lend their complete help to the victims and facilitate those giving charity to the needy."

Afghan disaster management officials say areas around the quake's epicentre in the remote province of Badakhshan, as well as neighbouring provinces such as Takhar and Kunar, have suffered huge devastation.

Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said an initial assessment shows around 4,000 houses have been damaged by the powerful quake.

"Some 76 people including women and children were killed and 268 others were injured in the quake," he said, warning that the toll was expected to rise.

The United Nations estimates that the Taliban's reach is the widest since 2001, with more than half of the districts across Afghanistan at risk.

The growing presence of Taliban fighters is hindering access of aid workers to earthquake victims in urgent need of help, the head of a Western charity told AFP.

"We have no presence in the affected areas, limiting our chances of a fair assessment of the security situation on the ground," he said on condition of anonymity.

Monday's quake was centred near Jurm in northeast Afghanistan, 250 kilometres (160 miles) from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213.5 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The tremor, which lasted at least one minute, shook buildings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, sending thousands of frightened people rushing into the streets.

The massive earthquake that hit Pakistan and Afghanistan Monday caused panic among survivors of a 2005 quake disaster, with parents describing frantic efforts to reach their children for fear "doomsday" had come again.

On October 8, 2005 a 7.6 magnitude quake ripped through the region, killing an estimated 75,000, wounding 128,000 and displacing another 3.5 million.

Survivors had just marked the tenth anniversary of the tragedy when Monday's 7.5 magnitude quake struck.

"I felt like doomsday was being repeated," Shehnaz Rasheed, whose seven-year-old daughter was killed in 2005, told AFP.

With searing visions of the death and destruction a decade ago, she rushed towards her sons' school -- frantic to reach them so she could "die together with them if we had to die".

Speaking from her house in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, near the epicentre of the 2005 quake, Rasheed said she had left everything behind in the dash to find her children.

"I did not even close the doors of my house and did not care for anything on the road," she said, her voice trembling.

She was not the only parent to panic, with witnesses in Muzaffarabad describing mothers fainting in the moments after the quake as fear for their children overwhelmed them.

- Afraid to be indoors -

The epicentre of Monday's 7.5 magnitude quake was several hundred kilometres from Muzaffarabad, across the border in Afghanistan.

Located in a sparsely populated rural area, unlike the urban areas hit in 2005, it was also far deeper than the earlier quake, with US geologists putting it at more than 200 kilometres beneath the ground.

But the region ravaged by the 2005 disaster has yet to recover, and some survivors found themselves sheltering from Monday's tremor in homes and buildings still not repaired.

Zainab Bibi, whose house collapsed ten years ago, was fearful it would come down on her family again.

They had rebuilt the house with a roof of steel sheets instead of concrete, but the 48-year-old said she was still too afraid to shelter beneath it.

"I was afraid of going inside the house and sat out in the open until late in the night despite the cold weather," she said.

Monday's quake filled her with a sickening sense of deja vu.

"I heard a strange, terrifying sound and the earth trembled in the same way. It was the same atmosphere," she said.

Along with the promises of reconstruction and development that never materialised after 2005, hundreds of people who were listed as missing have yet to be found.

With all records of whether they survived destroyed in the chaotic aftermath, many relatives are still struggling to trace them and refusing to give up hope.

Derelict construction sites, half-built roads and piles of building material occupy the spaces where thriving towns and cities should exist.

In some cases people have rebuilt their homes along the quake fault line, despite warnings from experts that another and even bigger quake may yet strike.

"One is inevitably left wondering whether the structures built since 2005 have been constructed specifically to withstand a stronger shock," a Dawn newspaper editorial said Tuesday.

"Let this episode jolt us into awareness that it is high time we woke up and took disaster preparedness and response more seriously."

For Muzaffarabad shopkeeper Khwaja Bashir, the warning is urgent.

"I witnessed a lot of destruction in 2005," he told AFP.

"Anything can happen even now."

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Previous Report
Powerful quake rocks South Asia, 70 dead
Kabul (AFP) Oct 26, 2015
A powerful 7.5 magnitude killed at least 70 people as it rocked south Asia on Monday, including 12 Afghan girls who were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school. Thousands of frightened people rushed into the streets across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as the quake was felt across a swathe of the subcontinent. The quake was centred near Jurm in no ... read more

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