Photos

A year after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, I traveled to Pakistan and Kashmir to report on the recovery effort and the millions of people displaced by the disaster. These images were displayed at the Asian American Journalists Association East Coast conference the following year.

1At 8:55 a.m. on October 8, 2005, an earthquake rocked Northern Pakistan and the Muzaffarabad Valley. A year later, signs of the damage are still evident. This mountain has visible cracks, and the brown area is where landslides following the earthquake have destroyed homes and whole villages.

2This was once the living room of a family in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, directly east of the epicenter of the earthquake. Most mountainous homes look like this, while those in the city are still standing but have suffered serious structural damage.

3In the summer of 2006, many earthquake victims had returned to their villages, relief supplies in hand, to rebuild their homes. But the monsoon season brought mass landslides and forced the villagers to return to relief camps. Here, women wait for medial aid from International Medical Corps, which has a clinic inside this tent in Jabba, just south of Balakot and the earthquake’s epicenter.

04Balakot, located in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, was a trade city in the valley of several mountain ranges before it was destroyed. More than 30 fault lines meet here. Instead of rebuilding, the government has decided to move residents to a safer space nearby. These women are still living in tents in Balakot because their husbands refuse to leave their ancestral home, afraid of how they will rebuild and provide for their families in the new city.

05Jalalabad Park was once a favorite for Muzaffarabad residents to take evening strolls and enjoy city views. These tent dwellers moved here days following the earthquake, and operate their lives out of the park. Electric wires run to television sets inside the tents, and men and women leave in taxis in the morning to their offices and universities. The government is now demanding that the park residents leave this public property, but most have nowhere to go.

6This young couple was recently married when this photo was taken in August 2006. They share this wedding tent given to them by the Muzaffarabad government. Their new home has been decorated in traditional fashion to celebrate the newly married couple, and inside the customary wedding gifts, including a furniture set given to the bride by her parents, occupy the tent.

7Many children were orphaned in the earthquake. The Khubaib Foundation, in coordination with Turkish relief organizations, created this camp in Mansehra, a large city south of the epicenter, where relatives can leave children whose parents died in the earthquake. Here more than 150 children live in dormitory-style tents, receive clothing and food, and attend school to learn English, and Urdu, the national language.

8The earthquake his rural dwellers hardest: They lost their land and livelihood, and are now forced to learn new skills to survive in urban slums. This training program in the large metropolis of Abbottabad teaches women embroidery and helps them sell their crafts.

9The Citizens Foundation is the country’s largest educational nonprofit organization. After the earthquake, TCF started a relief fund and charged its staff architects with designing a low-cost, earthquake-proof home. They have provided the materials for 1,500 homes, but require that the villagers gain construction training and build the homes themselves so that knowledge of earthquake-proof technology spreads in the region.

10Strengthening Participatory Organization is one of the few relief agencies addressing the mental health needs of earthquake affectees. Most children were in school when the earthquake struck and have been scared to return. Here, Bilal, a university student in Muzaffarabad, is leading schoolchildren in a group exercise. The volunteers do art projects with the students and have discussions about tent life and losing family in the disaster.

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At 8:55 a.m. on October 8, 2005, an earthquake rocked Northern Pakistan and the Muzaffarabad Valley. A year later, signs of the damage are still evident. This mountain has visible cracks, and the brown area is where landslides following the earthquake have destroyed homes and whole villages.

This was once the living room of a family in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, directly east of the epicenter of the earthquake. Most mountainous homes look like this, while those in the city are still standing but have suffered serious structural damage.

In the summer of 2006, many earthquake victims had returned to their villages, relief supplies in hand, to rebuild their homes. But the monsoon season brought mass landslides and forced the villagers to return to relief camps. Here, women wait for medial aid from International Medical Corps, which has a clinic inside this tent in Jabba, just south of Balakot and the earthquake’s epicenter.

Balakot, located in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, was a trade city in the valley of several mountain ranges before it was destroyed. More than 30 fault lines meet here. Instead of rebuilding, the government has decided to move residents to a safer space nearby. These women are still living in tents in Balakot because their husbands refuse to leave their ancestral home, afraid of how they will rebuild and provide for their families in the new city.

Jalalabad Park was once a favorite for Muzaffarabad residents to take evening strolls and enjoy city views. These tent dwellers moved here days following the earthquake, and operate their lives out of the park. Electric wires run to television sets inside the tents, and men and women leave in taxis in the morning to their offices and universities. The government is now demanding that the park residents leave this public property, but most have nowhere to go.

This young couple was recently married when this photo was taken in August 2006. They share this wedding tent given to them by the Muzaffarabad government. Their new home has been decorated in traditional fashion to celebrate the newly married couple, and inside the customary wedding gifts, including a furniture set given to the bride by her parents, occupy the tent.

Many children were orphaned in the earthquake. The Khubaib Foundation, in coordination with Turkish relief organizations, created this camp in Mansehra, a large city south of the epicenter, where relatives can leave children whose parents died in the earthquake. Here more than 150 children live in dormitory-style tents, receive clothing and food, and attend school to learn English, and Urdu, the national language.

The earthquake his rural dwellers hardest: They lost their land and livelihood, and are now forced to learn new skills to survive in urban slums. This training program in the large metropolis of Abbottabad teaches women embroidery and helps them sell their crafts.

The Citizens Foundation is the country’s largest educational nonprofit organization. After the earthquake, TCF started a relief fund and charged its staff architects with designing a low-cost, earthquake-proof home. They have provided the materials for 1,500 homes, but require that the villagers gain construction training and build the homes themselves so that knowledge of earthquake-proof technology spreads in the region.

Strengthening Participatory Organization is one of the few relief agencies addressing the mental health needs of earthquake affectees. Most children were in school when the earthquake struck and have been scared to return. Here, Bilal, a university student in Muzaffarabad, is leading schoolchildren in a group exercise. The volunteers do art projects with the students and have discussions about tent life and losing family in the disaster.

This exhibit features the work of journalist Ambreen Ali, who traveled to the region in August 2006 for a multimedia freelance project. She provided Web dispatches at http://www.ambreen.net/blog; sent radio reports to PakCast; published written pieces in World View, Woman International, Glimpse and Newsline; adapted interviews to screenplays for an arts group in Houston; and exhibited her photography at events like this. She is a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


A year after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake, only 17 percent of the 3.3 million Pakistanis and Kashmiris affected had homes.

The rest continue to live in makeshift tent camps with unsanitary conditions, relying on food and shelter from relief agencies that are most busy planning their exit strategies.

Initial media coverage of the October 2005 earthquake brought helicopters, food, tents and volunteers to help victims survive the oncoming Himalayan winter. There was hope that the area would not only rebuild, but that it would have better hospitals, schools, and homes than before.

A year later, the cameras were gone. Another winter was on its way. Poor planning, a lack of funds and corruption had hindered progress during the precious window of mild weather, and millions were left waiting for the government to take action.

Among the rubble of frustration, loss, and helplessness, some victims have buried their pain and started to rebuild in the hope of living independent lives again.

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