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Powerful earthquake strikes South Asia

© REUTERS/Danish Ismail
Indian army soldiers carrying out children injured in earthquake, which hit India on 8 October 2005.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 8 October 2005 - A violent earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale struck areas near the Pakistan-India border at 8:50 am (local time in Pakistan) on 8 October 2005. The earthquake’s epicentre was approximately 95 kilometres, north-east of Pakistan's capital city, Islamabad.

The earthquake hit at least three countries, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, killing roughly 2,000 people so far. In Islamabad the damage was extensive. Buildings, schools and homes were leveled. According to the Associated Press, about 250 girls died when their school in northwestern Pakistan collapsed. Another 500 students were injured.

"It's the strongest earthquake Pakistan has witnessed in over a century. And its impact will be certainly severe," said UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, Omar Abdi.

© REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
Pakistani rescue workers carry an injured victim from site of collapsed building after earthquake in Islamabad, 8 October 2005.

Children are most vulnerable

Heavy damage occurred in Kashmir, the territory divided between India and Pakistan. Hundreds were killed in the earthquake, and some perished in landslides. In eastern Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl was crushed to death when a wall in her home collapsed, as reported by Associated Press. Reports also say that hundreds of people were injured and about 2,700 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Thousands of people, including children, are being treated for injuries caused in the quake and its aftershocks. "The emotional stress and trauma that children have to go through is unimaginable," said Mr. Abdi. "I can give you an example of my own two daughters. They didn’t eat or drink for the whole day. They didn’t want to go to sleep, and are afraid of staying inside the house. For children who have a roof and have parents around, they still suffer like that, you can image what’s like for children who lost everything."

© REUTERS/Mohsin Raza
Pakistani rescue workers survey the damages of a building after earthquake in Lahore, Pakistan, 8 October 2005.

UNICEF's action

Just hours after the quake struck, UNICEF began moving supplies from a Karachi warehouse into the affected region. The supplies include blankets, clothing, tents, emergency medical supplies, food for infants, and water purification tablets. UNICEF will work closely with the Government of Pakistan to determine what additional relief supplies may be needed. UNICEF is standing by to mobilize needed supplies from its operations elsewhere in the region and from its global supply hub in Copenhagen.

Speaking from New York, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said that the agency is preparing for a massive response to match the scale of the disaster, noting that children make up half the population of the affected areas.

"Fortunately most schools were closed when the earthquake struck, so hopefully there will be few casualties from collapsed school buildings," Veneman said. "But all children in the affected areas will be vulnerable to hunger, cold, illness, and trauma. Getting immediate life-saving relief into the region will be our priority for the next hours and days, even as the search and rescue effort goes on."

Maya Dollarhide contributed to this story.




8 October 2005:
UNICEF Country Representative in Pakistan, Omar Abdi, talks about UNICEF’s emergency response to help children and their families affected by the earthquake, which struck at least three South Asian countries on 8 October.

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