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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
BBC reporter's Kashmir quake ordeal
Zulfikar Ali
BBC Urdu service, Muzaffarabad

Zulfikar's relatives outside his family's destroyed house
Relatives outside Zulfikar's destroyed home
The phone rang minutes after the earthquake shook me out of my sleep on Saturday morning in Islamabad.

By the time I had stirred myself out of bed the tremors had faded.

I got ready to go out and pick up my air ticket for Delhi, where I was going for a training course.

It was then my wife, Yasmeen, called, from our home in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The quake had devastated our home - and our children had been hurt, she said.

My mind raced as I thought of the children - three young, naughty and very energetic boys. Hashid and Hamail are twins. Hamza is the eldest.

Yasmeen said Hamail was trapped under the rubble but he had been rescued.

"He is safe now," she said. "But Hamza is slightly injured. Nothing to worry about."


But it was enough to unleash a wave of anxiety, the kind that I had never felt before.

Zulfikar's family camped out in the open
My family was camped in open ground close to the house

My wife told me to keep my plans of leaving for Delhi on Sunday. There was no point in me not going, she said.

But I just couldn't bring myself to leave, knowing that my entire family had been left homeless.

The scale of the damage caused by the quake had not become apparent yet. But I changed my mind about going to Delhi.

The rest of the day was sent trying to make contact with my family but with no success - apparently the phone lines had gone down.

I was desperately worried now.

I tried finding out about landslides and possible roadblocks but had no luck.

Then I decided to take the Muree-Kohala route and try getting into Muzaffarabad nevertheless.

Muzaffarabad after the quake
Muzaffarabad was the worst affected area

I left Islamabad at 1430 local time on Saturday and reached the Kohala bridge three hours later.

There were few signs of damage on the way - a mosque had come down, that was all I saw. Perhaps it wasn't so bad after all, I thought.

But then came the first blocked stretch of road, some 30km (18 miles) from Muzaffarabad.

We soon learnt that a 12-km stretch was littered with debris and had become impassable.

It was getting dark and going the rest of the way on foot would have been very tricky.

So I turned back for Muree and headed towards Abbotabad - the only other route to Muzaffarabad from that area.

It was two in the morning on Sunday when I reached Lohar Gali, a mountain pass about 10km from Muzaffarabad.


A huge crowd had gathered there as the road had been blocked by a massive landslide.

There was a crisis of water, food, and medicines. Not to mention the acute lack of shelters

I decided to wait till the morning and left on foot at the crack of dawn.

Climbing over the landslides, I reached Muzaffarabad about two hours later.

I headed home straightaway and was shocked at what I saw.

My family was camped in open ground close to the house.

Hamza, Hashid and Hamail were running around in their night clothes.

Hamza was sporting a cut on the side of his head and Hamail who had been trapped when the house came down was scratched all over.

Muzaffarabad after quake
Most of the buildings here have collapsed

I asked why they hadn't been properly bandaged. I was told there were no medicines.

"Were you scared when you were trapped?" I asked Hamail.

"No," he said smiling, clearly very happy to see me.

All through my journey, I had kept thinking of what must have been going through young Hamail's mind while he was trapped.

Fighting back my tears, I met everyone else.

The situation was becoming clear. There was a crisis of water, food and medicines. Not to mention the acute lack of shelter.

There was no question of moving them out of Muzaffarabad because the roads were damaged.

So we all settled down, determined to battle the situation like tens of thousands of other Kashmiris affected by this calamity.


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