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Misery Continues One Year After Pakistan Quake

JACKI LYDEN, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Today, Pakistan marked one year since a massive earthquake, the worst natural disaster in its history. Tens of thousands were killed, many of them school children buried beneath their own schools. Several million people were made homeless. NPR's Phillip Reeves has been to the disaster zone to see how people are recovering.

PHILLIP REEVES: The earthquake that killed some 73,000 people lasted two minutes. Yet for Musarra Bibi(ph) the disaster is still going on. She's sitting in a stuffy, fly-blown hospital beside her badly maimed nine-year-old daughter, Samia.

Ms. MUSARRA BIBI (Pakistan Resident): (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: How can I get over the earthquake, Musarra asks. When it flatten her mountain village, the quake killed her husband Rashid(ph). Her twelve-year-old boy, Entias(ph), later died in a landslide, and the same landslide crippled Samia. The little girl has already lost one leg from the knee down. Her other leg is badly damaged. No one's sure if she'll be able to keep it. There are plenty of other people in the mountains with stories like this.

Samia is in hospital in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir, one of the worst hit regions. In a camp pitched on a patch of rubble on the edge of town, quake survivors are sweeping the dust out of their tents. Sixty-five-year-old Reshan Jahon(ph) has lived here since shortly after the disaster. She sees no prospect of returning to her village anytime soon.

Ms. RESHAN JAHON (Pakistan Resident): (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: Her family can't rebuild. The land on which her home once stood doesn't exist anymore. It's been swept away by a landslide. Others were luckier.

Mr. SHIHIME JUPTI(ph)(Spokesman): Most of the people who lost their homes were able to leave the camps and go back to their home areas.

REEVES: Shihime Jupti, spokesman for Oxfam in Pakistan. He says returning home is one thing, rebuilding is another.

Mr. JUPTI: Many of them are still not able to build because they've been waiting for information on how to build earthquake resistant homes. Have been waiting for technical advice. They've been waiting for money.

REEVES: Oxfam estimates that 1.8 million people are still living in temporary shelters or in tents. As the winter approaches, fuel, food and medicine is being stockpiled. Yet aid workers are still worried. This year the winter is expected to be harsh.

President PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Pakistan President): (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf was in Muzaffarabad today. The relief effort was a victory for Pakistan, he said, in a speech broadcast on Pakistani TV. And, he added, especially for the military. But he also appealed for survivors to be patient. So far they've needed all the patience they can muster. Reconstruction is being complicated by red tape and by disputes over earthquake-proof designs and building materials. And also, says Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, of the watchdog organization, the Center for Peace and Development Initiative, by corruption.

Mr. MOQTA AHMADALI (Center for Peace and Development Initiative): You know (unintelligible) the major concern was that almost all the common buildings collapsed. The reason was that the prescribed standards were not being met, and now the same concern, that the contractor mafia is now again producing substandard public works.

REEVES: No one is sure how long it will take Pakistan to finish rebuilding. Estimates vary considerably, but it is clear that it will take some of the survivors many years to recover. Fourteen-year-old Ira Riaz is also still in hospital. She has a shattered thigh.

Ms. Ira Riaz (Pakistan Resident): (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: The roof of her school collapsed on top of her, she says, trapping her beneath the roof beams. That was a year ago, but she remembers it as if it was yesterday. Phillip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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