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Nightmare at Kashmir

Updated on May 29, 2012

On October 8, 2005 an earthquake of enormous vigor struck Kashmir, the northeastern region of Pakistan. The earthquake, now known as the Kashmir earthquake registered a 7.6 on the moment magnitude scale. Using the mathematics described by Hiroo Kanamori in “The Energy Release in Great Earthquakes,” (|MW=2/3(log1.23x1022)[km2]3/2dyn•cm)- 10.7| calculates to 7.593 (Kanamori). The energy released was approximately 2.32 Megatons of trinitrotoluene or 9.7 Petajoules, about 116 times the amount released by the first atomic weapons Trinity, Little Boy and Fat Man. The Kashmir earthquake was one of the most devastating earthquakes that region had ever experienced, and it is within the top twenty in known worldwide history. Even considering this incredible destructive force, preventative measures could have lessened its devastating impact.

According to professor of geological sciences Roger Bilham, the earthquake was caused by a slipping of the Muzafferabad fault (Bilham). The Associated Press on MSNBC placed the death toll at over 79,000 (Associated Press). The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council dispatched an Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Teamled by Dr. Burton and Dr. Rosetto. The EEFIT estimated that the overall cost of the earthquake was in excess of 5.2 billion U.S. dollars (Burton and Rosetto). In summation, this earthquake was the most destructive (as in monetary cost and lives lost) that has struck the subcontinent of India to date.

Why were 80,000 people killed, 3 million people homeless, and $5.2 billion damages the result of this earthquake? A major contributing factor was lack of preparedness. The velocity of seismic waves (depending on density of terrain, distance from epicenter, etc.) averages approximately five kilometers per second, so there is very little warning time to prepare. The actual defense for the earthquake must be of a permanent nature, such as the ability of buildings to withstand motion. Considering the susceptibility to earthquakes based on location (mountainous region above fault lines in tectonic plates), there was a marked laxity in the quality of construction. This comes as no real surprise, considering how relatively poor the developing country Pakistan is. Immediately after an earthquake of this magnitude, there are plenty of concerns: rescuing survivors, medical care, food/water, shelter, preventing spread of disease, restoring power/water supplies, etc. In this particular case, Pakistan did not have adequate equipment to properly rescue survivors. This invariably increased the already high death toll of the quake. It is also clear that without the help of foreign nations, Pakistan could not have adequately provided emergency relief, and thus the death toll would have been still higher. Luckily for Pakistan, they received aid for the aftermath of the destruction.


The New World Encyclopedia details a large international response to the disaster. Many countries came to the aid of Pakistan for relief, including India, Russia, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. Much of this aid was in the form of food/water, shelter, medical care and other emergency aid (“Kashmir Earthquake 2005”). Pakistan also received help with foreign militaries for reconstruction, and significant monetary contributions from the U.S. and the U.N. (“Kashmir Earthquake 2005”). These contributions should help construction reduce risk of collapse and the Kashmir region of Pakistan should be much more permanently prepared for earthquakes.


In “Risk-conscious Reconstruction in Pakistan-administered Kashmir: A Case Study of the Chakhama Valley,” Markus Zimmermann and Shireen Issa state the goals of the reconstruction, which essentially amounts to: promoting preparedness; construction disaster-resistant structures; training for health and education personnel; and restoring normal living conditions (Zimmermann and Issa 210). It has been 6.3 years since the earthquake. Reports even within as little as a year of the quake reported strong progress on the reconstruction. Despite the fact that the area suffered unimaginable devastation, with the relief provided, the resilient constructions, and the new disaster policies, the Kashmir region is probably better off than it was before. There probably is not any lasting impact on daily life, but at least they are much safer from future disasters.

It will likely be a long time before we see any real counter-earthquake technology. It is possible, however. Devices that generate a wave causing destructive interference (a wave in which the trough matches the crest of the other wave, and vice versa) or installing subterranean barriers that absorb enormous vibrational energy without transferring it are viable methods. Otherwise, we could construct buildings made from virtually indestructible materials like graphene or carbon nanotubes. While that research may benefit us in the future, there are things that we can presently do. By studying disasters in the past, we may get ideas to help minimize losses in the future. We may also ensure that our current buildings meet certain standards for typical disasters likely to occur within their region. Also, it is important to have procedures set for emergency situations. The Kashmir earthquake was more devastating than it should have been because of a fundamental lack of preparedness. After the multifaceted international relief and the Pakistani reconstruction efforts, the Kashmir region is now better prepared to survive natural disasters.


Associated Press. “New Figures Put Quake Toll at More than 79,000.” MSNBC. 19 Oct. 2005. Web. 2 Mar 2012. < world_newssouth_and_central_asia/t/new-figures-put-quake-toll-more/>.

Bilham, Roger. “Kashmir 2005.” Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. June 2007. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <>.

Burton, P. and T. Rosetto. “Post Earthquake Field Investigation of the Kashmir Earthwuake in Pakistan of 8th October 2005.” Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2012. <>.

Kanamori, Hiroo. “The Energy Release in Great Earthquakes.” Journal of Geophysical Research. 82.20. 10 Jul. 1977: 2981-2987. Web. 2 Mar. 2012. < uploads/File/People/kanamori/HKjgr77.pdf>.

“Kashmir Earthquake 2005.” New World Encyclopedia. 9 Jan. 2009. Web. 2 Mar 2012. <>.

Zimmermann, Markus N. and Shireen S. Issa. “Risk-conscious Reconstruction in Pakistan-administered Kashmir: A Case Study of the Chakhama Valley.” Mountain Research and Development. 29.3. April 2009: 202-210. Web. 2 Mar 2012. < content/risk-conscious-reconstruction-pakistan-administered-kashmir-case-study-chakhama-valley>.


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    • professorcoban profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida

      You are welcome. I try to educate others and I learn in the process. I also believe that there is no limit to what the past can teach us, especially if we continue to reexamine it.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I remember when this happened! Thank-you for bringing the true horror of this event to life. Amazing pictures, too!


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