On Thursday, Dawn reported that rescue workers recovered 16 bodies from under rubble in Kamsaar Village, just north of Muzzafarabad in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. The people, traveling in a passenger coach, were reportedly trapped in the earthquake that struck Kashmir in 2005, a natural disaster that killed about 74,500 people and injured over 100,000 in the region.
It has been over four years since one of Pakistan’s most devastating earthquakes and we are still recovering victims. We still bear the scars of the thousands of lives lost. And yet, despite the fact that man-made conflict prevails throughout the world, that discrimination and violence have torn countries apart, nature has the power to bring us all to our knees. In the aftermath of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and cyclones, we come together.
For days, we have watched news and updates on the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12. On Thursday, a Haitian Red Cross official said as many as 50,000 may have been killed, while another government official estimated the death toll may reach 100,000. An International Red Cross official stated that up to 3 million people may have been affected by the quake.
On Thursday, CNN reported that Haitians took rescue efforts into their own hands, working for 24 hours with chisels, blowtorches, and their bare hands to free a man pinned under a collapsed school. The news agency added, “Those scenes of Haitians banding together to free their neighbors played out across the capital while the few rescue crews who managed to make it into the hillside city came face-to-face with the death and destruction caused by the massive quake.”
Watching the news, I was reminded of similar scenes that played out in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan , when residents in Islamabad pitched in to help lift bricks and rubble in F-10, helping recover survivors from a collapsed apartment building. Hundreds of people collected blankets, food, tents, and clothes for the people displaced in Kashmir. Similar scenarios also took place following the tsunami in 2004, a disaster that killed nearly 230,000 people in 14 countries.
In the aftermath of Haiti, the global response and attention has been overwhelming. President Obama has promised $100 million in aid, and said the U.S. would grant “every element of our national capacity, our diplomacy and development assistance, the power of our military and most importantly, the compassion of our country” to Haiti.
In less than two days, a campaign “done solely through text messages and made viral on networking sites like Twitter and Facebook has raised more than $5 million for the Red Cross’s relief work in Haiti,” reported CNN today. Red Cross spokesman spokesman Jonathan Aiken described it as “a phenomenal number that’s never been achieved before.” Lance Armstrong posted on Twitter that his LiveStrong Foundation would give $230,000 to humanitarian aid groups. On Friday, January 22, George Clooney will host a live telethon to benefit the victims of Haiti, airing from 8-10 pm EST on all MTV channels worldwide along with ABC, NBC, HBO and CNN.
We shouldn’t have to ask why we should help Haiti. But if Pakistanis need a reason, we don’t have to look very far. Pakistan’s renowned philanthropist, Abdul Sattar Edhi has pledged $500,000 via the Edhi Foundation to relief efforts, and will reportedly travel to the country, (via Twitter user @curry_crayola). Given our own experiences with natural disasters, the Haiti earthquake should serve as a reminder about how connected we are, and how much we can do even in our small capacity.
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