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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
Escape from the epicentre
Video footage sent in by reader Ahsan Haque

Trekking in the valleys below Muzaffarabad, Ahsan Haque was perilously close to the epicentre of the powerful South Asian earthquake when it struck.

He told the BBC News website of the panic after the first shock and sent in dramatic mobile phone footage of the immediate aftermath.

When it happened, I had no idea how close I was and how much of a disaster it would turn out to be.

We had planned this trekking trip around the beautiful Neelam Valley for ages.

My friends and I were travelling during Ramadan so we carried our own food and water. We were loaded up with gas, rice, lentils, water - only later did I realise how lucky this was.

We left our night stop nine minutes late. I think now that delay could have saved our lives.

As we were heading towards Muzaffarabad, our driver suddenly spoke out: "I have no control, I feel as if the car is flying".

Rocks were rolling down the mountain towards us. At that point, there was a fork on the road and our driver hurtled down the other side and steered us under a large bridge.

Villagers in Pakistani-administered Kashmir
Villagers started arriving with their wounded relatives

Rocks continued to fall on either side and there was an enormous cloak of dust. I thought of the 9/11 footage when smoke filled the air and people were running everywhere.

There was a thick fog - it was as if the mountain was boiling.

And then, silence, followed by a sense of euphoria that we were safe. We celebrated.

We thought it was just the biggest landslide we had ever seen.

Walking wounded

We drove around trying to find our way to Muzaffarabad, but everywhere the roads were blocked.

And then the second shock came. We thought the road was going to collapse and more rocks rolled down the hillside.

Ahsan Haque
Ahsan Haque's family were delighted to be reunited with him

Then people started to appear. They were bringing the injured, mostly children.

One man was carrying a two-year-old girl. I thought of my own daughters at that point. Her head was bleeding and he was trying to stem the blood flow, but her eyes were rolling up into her skull.

I asked him how he was, but he was totally incoherent. He said his father and wife were injured at home. I calmed him down and gave him some of the water we had with us.

More people came. Nobody had food with them because it was Ramadan.

Soon word spread that we had supplies and drivers started rushing over saying they had children and women who needed help.

At dusk, we can break our fast. We told people that we could cook for them. The local police arrived quickly but we were the first with a makeshift relief camp.

I have to mention my friends who took part in this: Zahid Masood, Mirza Rizwan, Malik Abdullah and Zahid Majeed.

None of us had any idea about what had really happened. When I returned home to Lahore, there was huge relief.

Everybody had heard about the earthquake and they knew that their husbands and sons were going to Muzaffarabad.

That was the closest call I've had in my life.


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