Pakistan lies in the most active quake zone along with Afghanistan and India. This is not new information, as the devastation of the 2005 earthquake still sears fresh in the memories of the inhabitants of the area. Sadly the leadership of this country seems to have forgotten that desolation, that annihilation. We are a nation that only reacts to tangible and immediate threats; anything else will take the backseat till the next catastrophe hits. This can be said about floods, earthquakes, glacial outbursts, landslides and droughts; till the numbers of bodies start to rise it is simply not a palpable threat and for someone to suggest that it goes unheeded.

The death toll stands at 311 right now with another 1665 injured according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Many buildings and houses collapsed in the city of Peshawar let alone the villages, where families had to wait inside their courtyards till the tremors subsided, as walls were falling everywhere like dominoes. The fear of the 2005 earthquake is so ingrained in the affectees that thousands spent the night outdoors in near-freezing temperatures reluctant to go back inside for the angst of aftershocks.

While the post-disaster relief provision has improved greatly as the NDMA and the Pakistan Army are actively engaged with efficient relief and rescue activities, much remains to be said for the preparedness for a disaster of this magnitude. Where children around the world, especially countries in seismically active zones like Japan, go through systematic earthquake drills every month, our children and adults alike have no concept of what is correct protocol to follow when the earth starts to shake. Many casualties and injuries are caused by the panic that ensues when everyone runs for their life without any contingency plan in place. In Afghanistan 12 schoolgirls were crushed to death by a stampede that was caused due to the earthquake. We are no different, only lucky or perhaps unlucky that such incidences did not catch the eye of the media.

Buildings in Islamabad, Peshawar and Lahore alike swayed like trees in a strong wind. Just the description of a many-story tall concrete structure oscillating like a pendulum is enough to instill fear, and yet this is quality of our infrastructure and their resilience to disasters. Had this earthquake been slightly shallower, the landscape of this country would have looked entirely different. We must understand the gravity of the situation; we are unprepared and unaware and preparedness is the only facto that will save us in the future.