8 October 2008

8th October 2008 – two important dates

Posted by Dave Petley

The third anniversary of the Kashmir Earthquake
Today is the third anniversary of the Kashmir earthquake disaster, in which over 79,000 people were killed. Of these, about a third (i.e. about 26,000) were killed either directly or indirectly by landslides. To mark the occasion, the images below, which I took in January 2006, show some of the slope failures that occurred.

Whilst Pakistan has undoubtedly put a great deal of effort into earthquake reconstruction, hardship is still the norm in the earthquake affected areas. The two major towns, Muzaffarabad and Balakot are still only partially rebuilt, whilst many of the outlying villages are in an even more desperate state. Over 2000 people still live in refugee camps as a result of losing their land and properties to landslides and disruption to the road network from failures is still a daily occurrence.

Photo 1: Shallow rockslides on the road from Muzaffarabad up the Neelum Valley. Note the complete destruction of the village in the foreground.

Photo 2: Landslides on a main road close to Muzaffarabad. The bravery of the bulldozer drivers was and is incredible.

Photo 3: Houses on an active landslide near to Hattian Bazaar. The cracks are the result of movement of the slope in the earthquake. Note that the large house is in a graben feature (i.e. on a block that has dropped down as a result of the landslide movement). This has cause the house to crack, but as the washing shows it was still inhabited. Note that rebuilding is occurring in this incredibly dangerous location.

Photo 4: A collapsed terrace in Hattian Bala. When the terrace collapsed the buildings on the edge fell into the river, killing the occupants.

An irony: the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction

The second Wednesday in October (i.e, today) is designated by the United Nations as the The International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction. Worldwide activities today are focused on raising public awareness, and thus preparedness, for natural disasters. Yesterday, the Secretary General of the United Nations urged greater investment in disaster preparedness. Today in which the UK government has agreed to plough yet another £50 billion to prop up the banks for their earlier follies. Just to put that into context – in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake, which made over 3.3 million people homeless, the International Community donated a grand total of $5.8 billion (£3.3 billion) – i.e. 6.6% of the amount that the UK government has today invested in the banks, not even counting the £450 billion that has been made available as loans to the banks.