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Disaster preparedness

An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 on the Richter scale struck several areas of Balochistan, killing at least 20 and injuring more than 300 people. However, the incident has not managed to receive national attention and only grabbed a few headlines. 

The army has been leading the relief and rescue efforts in the quake-affected area. Chief of the Army Staff has directed troops stationed in the province to assist the civil administration and mitigate the suffering of the people. The military has always led rehabilitation efforts during national disasters.  The prime minister had directed federal departments to assist the Balochistan government in providing relief items and medical assistance to help people in this critical hour. NDMA dispatched relief goods to the remote, mountainous area of Harnai which has been the worst affected from the quake.

A day later was the 16th anniversary of the devastating earthquake which struck the northern areas of Pakistan in 2005. More than 73,000 people were killed, over 100,000 were injured while more than 2.8 million were displaced, many of them still unable to rehabilitate themselves. Pakistan observed National Resilience Day as tribute to the victims and affectees.

President Arif Alvi said we are living in a highly vulnerable region and there is a strong need to strengthen departments and improve infrastructure. There is also a need to create awareness among people about disaster prevention and preparedness. However, no effort have been made to gauge our preparations for such catastrophes. We also need to understand the role of climate change and global warming in causing fires, heatwaves, floods, and cyclones.

There is little wonder what the death toll in Harnai was lower. The district is marked by rampant poverty and backwardness where residents live in mud houses. The district hospital does not have medicines and lacks basic facilities and the critically injured had to be sifted miles away to Quetta. It was reported last year there are 300 buildings in Quetta are at risk. This earthquake is a wake-up call for the authorities to remain prepared for further calamities.