CASUALTIES resulting from the Balochistan tumbler would have been much higher if it had hit a major urban centre in the province. Even now, when the epicentre was situated in a rural area near Ziarat, dotted with mostly single storey mud houses, the toll was high - over 200 dead, more than 500 injured and thousands rendered homeless. Entire habitations in the vicinity of the epicentre, about 60 km from Quetta, have been wiped out, turning thousands of houses into piles of rubble. Aftershocks, 130 on Wednesday, forced thousands of people to sleep outside in the open, despite zero-degree temperature at places. Rescue and relief operations have begun and Chairman National Disaster Management Authority, Farooq Ahmad Khan, has expressed confidence in the administration's ability to cope with the situation without international help. There is a need, however, to draw lessons from the disaster, something that was not properly done after the devastation caused by the 2005 earthquake that caused havoc in AJK and adjoining areas of NWFP. Foolproof plans to deal with disasters of the type have to be prepared, as two-thirds of Pakistan happens to be in the earthquake zone and the population has no choice but to learn to live with the situation. The Met Department, which gathers information about earthquakes, has divided the country into 19 zones in accordance with the faultlines that pass beneath different areas. Seven of these zones, which include Northern Areas, Makran, Quetta region and AJK, are liable to be hit by violent earthquakes. The big cities considered vulnerable include Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Abbottabad and Gilgit. A major quake hitting any of these cities would cause huge devastation, having serious consequences for the rest of Pakistan. Karachi for instance is not only the most populous city of the country, but also its industrial hub. Besides the national capital, the list includes two more provincial headquarters, the summer seat of the NWFP government and the capital of the Northern Areas. As things stand, preventive measures that can mitigate the impact of the disaster are nowhere in sight. There is a need to devise and strictly enforce a proper building code for these cities. Multi-storeyed buildings, that continue to be constructed, could cause immense harm to the population. There are no emergency arrangements in schools, offices or business centres. Despite the 2005 tragedy, no attempt has been made by the government to educate the people living astride the faultlines. While a National Disaster Management Authority was set up after the 2005 earthquake, it is yet to be made functional at the level of the provinces. There is a need under the circumstances to undertake the necessary measures to cope with the earthquakes that continue to occur in the red zone.