t struck around 8:52am on October 8th 2005, hitting the northern districts of AJK and the adjoining areas of KP. In AJK, Muzaffarabad was the hardest hit, mainly because the epicenter of earthquake was just 19 kilometers (12 miles) to its northeast. “The destruction caused – we had not imagined it in our wildest dreams,” Kiyani adds. Experts said AJK lies on land beneath which the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates collide. The geological activity born out of this collision is the reason for the unstable seismic activity in the region. October 8 too was a result of this activity.
More than 70 per cent of all casualties were estimated to have occurred in Muzaffarabad, while Bagh, the second-most-affected district, accounted for 15 per cent of the total casualties. Meanwhile, it was a winter of despair after a severe earthquake nearly obliterated Balakot city and hit other areas in K-P and AJK on October 8, 2005. Despite the passage of 14 long years, the spring of hope is yet to return to some of the worst-hit areas. More than 100 school buildings destroyed in the earthquake in Battagram district have not yet been reconstructed forcing students to attend classes in the open even in biting cold.
Because of this, many students absent themselves from school in inclement weather. The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) says lack of funds has delayed reconstruction. The 2005 earthquake had destroyed 529 schools in the district. The headmaster of one such school says the previous government had sanctioned Rs1.4 million for toilet construction, water supply and installation of solar panels but the lack of the school building led to transfer of the funds to other schools. He claimed that a proposal to use the fund for reconstruction of the school building was shot down. Area residents complain that the inordinate delay in reconstruction of the school buildings is harming the cause of education.
An Erra official complained of the lack of funds for reconstruction of school buildings and said the Authority got Rs150 million for the purpose in the current fiscal. He said of the 529 earthquake-hit schools in the district, 419 had been handed over to the education authorities after reconstruction, while another 22 would be rebuilt in the current financial year. The Erra chairman has said the New Balakot City housing project is being turned into a tourism-friendly zone of international standard with investment opportunities for foreign and local companies.
Another official quoted the Erra chairman as saying that the New Balakot City project would be completed in the next two years through public-private partnership. There are, however, reports that billions of rupees meant for reconstruction and rehabilitation in the earthquake-hit areas had been diverted to other programmes by previous governments. As a result, many people in affected areas are still living in tents.