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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Resilience among ruins of Muzaffarabad

By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Muzaffarabad

Muzaffarabad bazaar
The city bazaar is returning to a kind of normality
Nearly three weeks after being flattened by the killer earthquake, Muzaffarabad is still littered with signs of destruction.

Collapsed buildings, broken roads, badly damaged houses and, in some areas, row upon row of tents inhabited by those displaced by the earthquake.

What seems to have changed from the initial days, though, in the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir is the body language of the residents.

No longer can one see people floating around aimlessly, looking dazed and uncomprehending.

'Still terrified'

Most seem to have shaken off the shock and now look fiercely determined to make the most of what they have been left with - unlike rural areas where the situation remains unremittingly grim.

Many of the victims were well-to-do people. They hated the idea of running after relief trucks
Grocer Zubair Samad

"I am still terrified of being under a roof," says Abdul Hameed, a barber in Muzaffarabad.

"But I will not leave.

"This is my home. This is where I was born and this is where I will rebuild my life."

The barber's is one of the several shops to have reopened in the city's main bazaar on Bank road this week.

Most of these are grocery shops, bakers, cloth and general merchants and call centres.

Barber Abdul Hameed
Barber Abdul Hameed says he is scared, but staying

Banks, too, have started operations restoring the badly-needed cash flow to locals.

The shops are well stocked and most items of daily use from bottled water to sachets of soup are available here.

Business, say shopkeepers, is brisk.

Grocer Zubair Samad explains: "Many of the victims were well-to-do people. They hated the idea of running after relief trucks or standing in line outside NGO-run camps for food. They'd much rather buy what they need."

Toll of destruction

Brig Maqsood Ahmed, who is in charge of the army's relief operations, says: "I think the way people of this city have pulled themselves together is simply magnificent.

"I think the magnitude of this disaster has still not been properly understood outside the affected areas, which makes the people's spirit all the more remarkable."

Farooq Haider, an adviser to the local government, has been collecting data on deaths and destruction across Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Bus driver Hussain Kiyani
How can we trust anyone? Whatever we need to do, we have to do it ourselves
Bus driver Hussain Kiyani

"Up to today [27 October], we have been able to confirm 43,363 deaths and 30,967 serious injuries in Kashmir," he says.

"This figure is likely to go up as there are still several villages we have not been able to reach as yet."

The damage to housing, he says, has been just as extensive.

Nearly 60,000 brick houses and 115,000 mud houses have collapsed completely. About 70,000 have been left unusable.

More than 6,000 shops, over 150 health facilities and about 350 government buildings have been completely destroyed.

Government officials say it may still be several weeks before they can put out final figures.

"But whatever the final figure, it is bound to be more than what we have at the moment," Farooq Haider says.

Safe structures

For those determined to get on with their lives, there is little help from the official quarters at this stage.

The government said it would carry out a seismic survey - we are still waiting
Arshad Mahmood
Allama Iqbal Open University

The international community is still criticised for being tight-fisted and there are indications that the massive aid effort that the quake triggered within Pakistan is also running out of steam.

Aid agencies say there are visible signs of donor fatigue creeping in while a substantial part of the aid already sent to the affected areas has turned out to be a waste.

All around the civil secretariat in Muzaffarabad, one can see heaps of old clothes that have been sent - most of them not suited to the mountain cold.

In fact, so abundant are the piles of useless garments people are using them on fires to keep warm.

Many disgusted Kashmiris say they felt like beggars when they saw the kind of "aid" that had been sent from Pakistan.

What they would like instead, they say, is information.

Unwanted clothes by the roadside
Many clothes sent to Muzaffarabad were left to rot

"The government said it would carry out a seismic survey of the entire region and suggest safe materials and architecture," says Arshad Mahmood from the Allama Iqbal Open University.

"We are still waiting."

Most people in Muzaffarabad seem hungry for some hint of what the government is planning for them.

More than anything else, they want to know when and how to rebuild their homes. And to what extent, if at all, the government will help.

But there is little, it seems, that the government can tell them at this stage.


With only a fraction of the required funds promised by the world so far, Pakistan seems reluctant to make any expensive commitments.

Already, it has had to revise its "compensation" for the victims downwards.

The chief secretary of Pakistan-administered Kashmir had initially promised 100,000 rupees (about $1,660) per victim.

But earlier this week, the first instalment of cash compensation was doled out on the basis of 100,000 rupees per family.

Needless to say, many families have lost a number of members and the unannounced change in the compensation formula has left most of them even more uncertain of their future.

"How can we trust anyone?" asks bus driver Hussain Kiyani.

"Whatever we need to do, we have to do it ourselves. And we will."


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