In Pakistan, All Eyes On Nepal After Quake

Apr 27, 2015

An aerial view of tents setup by residents in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers — Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs.
Credit Altaf Qadri / Associated Press

Around the world this weekend, all eyes were on Nepal. But nowhere more so than on the Indian sub-continent. Lawrence Pintak reports from Islamabad.

Lawrence Pintak, Dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication
Credit Courtesy of Lawrence Pintak

Kathmandu is just a stone’s throw from Pakistan's capitol – less than the distance between Seattle and San Francisco.

So for Pakistanis, Kathmandu isn’t some exotic locale they can’t quite find on the map. It’s a neighbor.

Both Pakistan and rival India quickly began mobilizing relief supplies over the weekend because they’ve experienced firsthand what the Nepalis are going through.

The 2005 Kashmir earthquake – on the Indo-Pakistan border – killed more than 60,000 people.

Yet Kashmir left more than three million people homeless. It took more than $5 billion in aid to get the region back on its feet.

That gives you some sense of what the Nepal faces.

It’s difficult to convey just how basic Nepal’s infrastructure was. I’ve been to more than 60 countries, and Kathmandu is one of the most undeveloped Third World capitals I’ve ever seen. Most homes and shops have no heat. The water is undrinkable and the electricity unreliable. Downloading a web page is like watching paint dry.

Outside the capital, roads aren’t just unpaved. Some are glorified goat trails. On a visit a few months ago, without traffic it took me five hours to go about ten miles.

And that was before the earthquake.

So you can image the challenge for rescue workers trying to reach remote villages. And the Herculean task of rebuilding.

For now, even in the capital, there is no electricity and no water. Many of the old pipes have presumably been snapped by the quake. Tents are on the way with international relief supplies, but so too are the monsoons. In a matter of weeks, the capital will be deluged.

Rains in this part of the world give new meaning to the term torrential. Just yesterday, a storm here in Pakistan killed more than 50 people.

Then there are the aftershocks.

In the weeks after the Kashmir earthquake, there were more than a thousand aftershocks – some as bad as serious earthquakes.

So even Nepalis whose homes have survived may be doomed to stay on the streets for many days to come… and to live for months or years in a disaster zone.

Copyright 2015 Northwest Public Radio