Disaster Mismanagement

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More than three weeks after Doda-Kishtwar region was jolted by the first of a series of earthquakes, the government has failed to provide aid to a majority of the victims. While the politicians wasted no time to express their sympathies with the affected, little has been done on the ground, Asif Iqbal Naik reports.

More than 50,000 houses and 750 educational institutes were damaged in the Chenab valley quake.

More than 50,000 houses and 750 educational institutes were damaged in the Chenab valley quake.

It was another sleepless night for Tariq Butt and his family as the ground beneath them shakes too often since the major earthquake that hit Doda and Kishtwar district of Chenab valley on May 1. The first shock was followed by over three dozen aftershocks that have left the population scared and full of uncertainty. Tariq’s three-storied house which had a separate study room, bedrooms and a living room was completely damaged and, like many families living in Chenab valley, they shifted to a 180 square foot tent provided by the government.

Forced out of a life of comfort where Tariq and his family spend the chilly nights under warm blankets and hot summer days in air conditioned rooms, the events of May 1 have changed the course of their life. The family had to spend their nights in a small tent. Their home has been declared unsafe by the authorities of Disaster Management in Jammu and Kashmir.

Since the May 1 earthquake that measured 5.9 on Richter scale, children are the most scared among the victims, ‘’Everything shook. The television fell. Mother kept shouting. Then she ran away from the house. I was in her arms. I am not allowed to go back to the house,” said four-year-old Mutayab Bhat, son of Tariq’s younger brother.

It is not only Tariq Butt who became prey of the natural calamity. The houses of his two brothers also suffered cracks due to the earthquake and they too are spending their nights inside the tent.

‘’The kitchenware fell down. Everyone was weeping. Now we have moved into the tent. Everyone is afraid to go inside the house due to cracks’’ said eight-year-old Insha.

Tariq Butt, who works as a teacher at a government-run school said he was teaching students when the earthquake first rocked Kishtwar and Doda districts on May 1. “We closed the school. When I reached home, it had developed cracks. Then we shifted to a relative’s house for few days,” he says. His home was declared unsafe by a visiting team of Disaster Management constituted by the district administration to assess the losses.

“The administration handed over a tent to us. We have pitched it on a stranger’s land. Since then, neither have they inquired about anything nor have they provided any relief. I am not sure when the land owner asks me to vacate the tent from his land,” the visibly worried Tariq Butt said.

Mohammad Iqbal Tapal of Khankoth Thatri in Doda ran from pillar to post for the treatment of his three-year-old daughter, Sobiya. Her leg was fractured when she came under the rubble brought down by an aftershock a couple of days ago. Sobiya’s father took her to Kishtwar District Hospital but there was no one to help him. Feeling dejected, he visited private clinics where doctors suggested him to admit his daughter at the hospital. He left Kishtwar without treating his daughter.

With more than 50000 houses and 750 educational institutes damaged, schools and colleges have been shut for a fortnight. ‘’There are major cracks. The classrooms are not safe. Students and teachers are frightened to go inside the classrooms and instead prefer to study out in open’’ said Javed Ahmed Kichloo, Principal, Boys Higher Secondary School, Kishtwar.

Those students who attend classes have to sit under open sky in scorching heat. “We were in classroom when the earthquake hit the area. Every one of us ran for cover. The administration has now shut the schools,” said Maqdoom Ahanger, a student of Class 10. Maqdoom said that both the blocks of his school developed cracks which have made them unsafe.

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