ISLAMABAD: 10 years after the earthquake that devastated northern parts of the country, more than 5500 families in the city of Balakot are still homeless, a leading NGO said yesterday. 

The disclosure was made by the Pattan Development Organisation following the release of its report on the Earthquake relief effort.

It surveyed the conditions of 1400 families affected by the quake and floods and found their economic situation had worsened rather than improved since 2005 and that two-thirds felt unsafe.

The 2005 quake, the worst in Pakistan history, affected 3. 5 million people from Himalayan region and Pakistani held Kashmir and left 73,350 people, including 19000 children dead, and 2.8 million homeless.

Sixty-five percent of households surveyed  reported their economic situation had worsened since 2005 while only 34 households said that it had improved. Nearly two-thirds of the households interviewed said they had not built their houses according to ERRA design due to lack of financial support.

Rehabilitation schemes in New Balakot City, King Abdullah University, Turkey Colony Thatta and Turkey Colony Muzaffargarh had also failed.  Not a single house has been allocated to flood affected people in Thatta, while in Muzaffargarh only less than one-third are being occupied while in New Balakot City not a single plot was given to anyone, it said. Balakot was among the worst affected areas.

The government pledged it would relocate Balakot families and house them in other cities  but  ten years later many are still living in misery. The report said more than 5,500 of those displaced by the quake were still homeless despite government promises to give everyone new homes.  

Mega government housing projects, announced with great fanfare, had failed the report said. The government had announced New Bakral City for 5500 affectees of  Balakot, away from the fault lines as the city  was declared a red zone. But they are yet to transfer ownership of the houses and people are still living in shelters or half constructed homes as they have been prevented from building homes because of the risk of further quakes.

Metal and wooden shelters they were given are not spacious enough to accommodate the whole family. “ They only gave the shelters to married people” complained a woman from Balakot, Maryum Bibi. “ Where should go the other victim who are single, they also need shelter” she objected. 

“Billions of dollars poured in in aid and the government also allocated funds,” said local community leader, Qazi Mohammed Sadiq, “but the children of  Balakot city are still without homes, hospitals, schools and roads.”

Javed Iqbal from the area recalled “my home fell down on my wife and mother when I was at work at that time. We could recover the body of my wife after three days, although I with the help of relatives managed to pull out my mother after few hours”.

“We have been living like displaced people in our own area because our issues are not the priority of any government” he said.

The key findings of the report were shared in an event held to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2005 Earthquake today.

The report said the government has failed to fulfill promises made for the rehabilitation of quake-affected people in 2005. Despite government pledges of help in the immediate aftermath of the quake people are still living without basic amenities, according to quake victims who were gathered at the event.

Speaking at the event, Mr Ahmad Kamal from the NDMA pledged to undertake a multi-hazard and vulnerability analysis of all districts and will launch community based disaster management training.

At the event a moment of silence was observed to remember the lives lost during the 2005 earthquake. The event was followed by a candlelight vigil outside a local hotel to pay tribute to the victims of the earthquake.