“The first earthquake in the morning was scary—terrifying. I was still in bed and my whole bed was shaking,” said Seattle University graduate student Kashaf Saleen, recounting her experience with the harrowing 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
The geographically tumultuous region, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of India, is especially susceptible to devastation. This became apparent once again as a massive earthquake shook the mountainous northern region of Pakistan in Chitral, on Oct. 26. The earthquake reached a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale, killing 147 Pakistanis according to The Guardian—the Richter scale reading for the 2005 earthquake was 7.6. Chitral, an isolated state in Pakistan was among the heaviest hit areas. In Afghanistan, 12 students died while evacuating an all-girls school in the northeastern region. Fears linger about the safety of the northeastern region, where heavy rain and snow could create potentially disastrous conditions and landslides for the inhabitants. Kashaf Saleen was born in Pakistan and her family still lives in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, a small city near the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. This is where Saleen’s family was when the Earthquake struck last week.
“I was sleeping and when I woke up in the morning I saw my phone and it had so many messages from my family telling me that they were okay,” Saleen said. “My parents’ house, nobody lives there but we have tenants who live there, so we called them up to inquire about our house. The person who’s living there said, ‘you know the house is fine but it was swaying.’”
Reports from Islamabad showed similar signs of buildings shaking for minutes. Saleen, who spent most of her life in Pakistan has visited the northern regions of the country—especially Swat and Naran—described the region as beautiful. A region of mountains and small communities, she described memories of visiting tiny hilltop restaurants with views extending for miles. However, after her experiences with earthquakes in 2005 and 2008 the beauty was stained with lingering worries of danger.
“On top of that mountain, you know, anything could happen,” said Seattle U graduate student Samiah Rizvi, who also has family in Pakistan. “They live in the capital which is north but it’s not too bad, but it’s definitely devastating.”
This earthquake comes just days after the 10 year anniversary of the devastating 2005 Kashmir Earthquake, which killed almost 100,000 people and displaced millions. The Kashmir region is contested between Pakistan and India. The earthquake centered on the Pakistani city Muzaffarabad, and the disaster temporarily united India and Pakistan in humanitarian efforts. Pakistan suffers from a dangerous legacy of earthquakes—another earthquake in 2008 killed around 600 people.
“After that 2008 earthquake, even the smallest earthquake is just horrifying,” Saleen said. Saleen volunteered in 2008 with earthquake relief. “I would go to these places where they had kids and I talked to kids and tried to cheer them up somehow and take their mind off things, but now I’m here and can’t do anything except donating a few bucks.”
Those inclined to participate in relief efforts have an array of options for either donating or in volunteering efforts. The organization, Islamic Relief USA is accepting donations to help repair the massive damage from the earthquake. They cite natural disaster as a major factor in why Pakistan remains an underdeveloped nation.
“Whenever anything happens drastically, they’re always there with relief efforts because they have stations in Pakistan,” Rizvi said.
The Human Development Foundation also accepts donations and is based in Pakistan, and is especially effective in helping schools in Pakistan and promoting an educated culture.
But earthquakes like these are not limited to Pakistan and the surrounding nations. The Seattle fault line has been noticeably quiet for some time, leading to some concern over the next earthquake to come.
“I don’t worry about it too much because if it’ll happen, it’ll happen,” said freshman Richard Holgerson.
Seattle University Public Safety has gone to great lengths to prepare students, faculty and staff for any type of emergency. Regular drills, enhanced communications systems, and direct contact with emergency organizers in the greater Seattle area all play a part in keeping our own community prepared for any kind of earthquake.
Rizvi studies structural engineering and how buildings handle earthquakes along the west coast. The people who build bridges, roads and buildings don’t pretend they can stop disaster, they can only respond to it, and that response can be the difference between life and death.
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