EDITORIAL: In the quake that struck four districts of Balochistan, including Quetta, in the wee hours of Tuesday at least 38 people, many of them children, were killed and more than 300 hundred injured. The worst affected were villages in Harnai district where countless houses collapsed or were badly damaged, and landslides blocked roads. It is not short of a miracle that the 5.9 magnitude quake occurring at a shallow depth of just 9 kilometres (as recorded by the US Geological Survey) did not cause far more death and destruction. What reduced the damage, probably, was the fact that in the poverty-stricken Harnai villages almost all people lived in mud homes rather than brick buildings.
Even as landslide caused difficulties in rescue and relief operations, it is good to note that the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) together with district administration quickly got into action. In the hard to access areas the Army and FC personnel rushed in to help. Army helicopters shifted the injured to Quetta and Ziarat hospitals. They also flew in relief items such as tents, food, drinking water and medical supplies to people. Some of the injured were taken to the distinct hospital where emergency was declared and doctors and paramedical staff called from nearby cities. The affected families were provided with shelter in tents, and those with minor injuries given medical treatment in special camps set up for the purpose. Chief Minister Jam Khan also visited Harnai along with some ministers to supervise rescue and relief operations. His government has promised to rebuild the destroyed houses. The usual tendency, however, is to forget all such promises once the calamity passes. Inspiring hope this time that rehabilitation and reconstruction work would actually materialise is that whilst offering condolences to families who lost their loved ones, Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered "immediate assistance on an emergency basis" as well as assessment of the damage.
The PDMA and others to be involved in the reconstruction work must not lose sight of the fact that the areas now affected happen to be sitting atop an active seismic zone. It may be recalled that in 1935 Quetta was hit by a 7.7 magnitude quake, in which hundreds of thousands of lives perished. The epicenter of that horrific seismic event was 153 kilometers farther away from Quetta yet it caused unspeakable loss of life and property. That is when it was decided that all construction in Quetta must comply with a quake-resistant building code. Unfortunately, during the recent years that code has fallen by the wayside. It is imperative therefore that the authorities concerned ensure not only that the new constructions in the presently affected areas but also in Quetta are made to conform to the required standards.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021