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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 October 2006, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Pakistan quake survivors living in the rubble
By Sue Mitchell
Radio 4's It's My Story

After the Pakistan earthquake a year ago, Zafar Shah from Bradford travelled to the affected region with his elderly mother to trace relatives living there.

Recently they returned to Muzaffarabad to see how their family were coping 12 months on.

Muzaffarabad one year after the earthquake
Muzaffarabad one year after the earthquake remains devastated

Malik Zaman is a 97-year-old veteran of World War II.

His home was badly cracked in the earthquake and clearly it isn't safe.

But many friends and relatives lost their homes entirely and there are now 10 people sleeping there every night.

Among them are two young children whose mother was killed in the earthquake.

Zafar is shocked to see the conditions that they are living in.

"This is just one room and every single wall has a crack - it looks like lightning has passed through this. This is awful.

"The kitchen's got an absolutely huge crack right through the centre, it's unbelievable.

Bribery claims

"What's most worrying is that we've got an old lady here, who's bedridden, and behind her the crack runs for the entire breadth of the house."

Zafar is told that when the military came out to assess damage to the house, they wanted a bribe.

"If you gave them 20,000 rupees (175) they would process the claim in your favour," says Zafar.

"If you refused to offer the bribe they finalised a report that said that the house was fit to live in for everyone, which is what's happened here."

Relief agencies have successfully settled some of those who lost homes in the earthquake but others who escaped from remote villages in the mountains say there is little hope of going back to areas still completely covered in rubble.

Outside Muzaffarabad, Zafar is shown the remains of a school which had 500 pupils.

Children in a temporary camp
Some children live in temporary camps following the disaster

"On the day of the earthquake that school just got flattened - there were no survivors and because of where it is they haven't been able to take any machinery there to actually clear it all up.

"So that school - so what was a school, the rubble - is as it was a year ago.

"And I can only feel for the parents there because most of the children are just buried there, it's become a big graveyard."

Disaster officials estimate that close to a million people are homeless.

Many are still living in tents and are facing the prospect of spending a second winter in freezing conditions under canvas.

Zafar has brought some thick winter coats and sleeping bags donated from people in Bradford.

Many families in Britain with links to those affected in Pakistan have been supplying clothing and money to help.

Among those living in the makeshift camp, he finds his 33-year-old cousin, Nasreen. She tells Zafar that she fears for her four children as winter approaches.

As far as land, houses, money, education's concerned, nothing's happened for them, it's just a struggle
Zafar Shah

The government is committed to closing tented cities like the one they're living in and they face losing even this makeshift roof over their heads.

"As far as land, houses, money, education's concerned, nothing's happened for them, it's just a struggle," says Zafar.

"And they're just thinking what they're going to do next because the university - the campus here - are putting a lot of pressure on them to move out and they have no idea where they're going to go."

Perhaps the most tragic legacy of the earthquake is the grief of those who lost loved ones in the earthquake.

Lifelong change

In Muzaffarabad more than half of the school-aged children were killed.

Another of Zafar's relatives, a young medical student called Hadia Niaz lost her mother when the school she was teaching in was destroyed.

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"Psychologically I really have been disturbed, because even now it's going to be a year and we're just not really accepting the thing.

"I'm just memorising how my mum was taking care of me, how she used to like teach me the things, I'm really missing that.

"It was really far more than an earthquake, a disaster. My life has really been changed and this isn't just for a moment, for an hour or for a day, this is for the whole life through."

It's My Story: Beyond the Rubble is on Radio 4 on Sunday 8 October at 1330 BST or online for seven days afterwards at the Listen again page.




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