On 8 October 2005, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale decimated vast areas of northern Pakistan. Tremors were felt across the region from Kabul, in Afghanistan to Delhi in India.
The epicentre was close to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which lies some 95 kilometres north of Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad.
In Pakistan, more than 73,000 people were killed and some 128,000 people injured. There was also extensive damage and loss of life in Indian-administered Kashmir. The official death toll in India was 1,500 and more than 4,500 people were injured.
In Kashmir several villages were completely destroyed and countless others badly damaged. As much as 70 per cent of the Muzaffarabad district, which had a population of close to one million, was devastated by the earthquake. The North-West Frontier Province was also severely affected. More than 6,000 schools and colleges were damaged or destroyed by the quake and 3.5 million people were displaced.
How we helped
The British Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which, working hand in hand with the Pakistan Red Crescent and the Pakistan government, provided assistance to around one million people.
The Pakistan Red Crescent and the Indian Red Cross responded immediately to the crisis, and their volunteers and staff worked around the clock to help those affected by the disaster.
The British Red Cross was at the forefront of the emergency relief efforts. On 9 October 2005, we launched an emergency appeal which thanks to the generosity of the public raised £5.2 million. Funds raised by the appeal were used to buy immediate relief items including tents, tarpaulins, and hygiene and kitchen sets and to support the work of the volunteers and staff at the Pakistan Red Crescent and Indian Red Cross.
Within 48 hours of the earthquake the British Red Cross sent an emergency response team of four logisticians to Pakistan to help distribute emergency relief supplies. This team was replaced each month by a new unit of logisticians until January 2006. In total, we sent out more than 18 experts in logistics, water and sanitation, and health and spent an incredible £16.5 million bringing emergency aid to those affected by the disaster.
After the quake, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helicopters evacuated around 1,000 injured people from remote areas to Islamabad and the ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad.
Support through winter
The Red Cross provided basic healthcare for almost half a million people in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which were the worst-affected areas.In addition, a total of 40 water supply schemes were repaired, bringing clean, drinkable water to people in the affected areas.
In 2006, the Red Cross helped more than 94,000 people through a second winter by supplying iron sheets, tarpaulins, construction kits, thermal blankets and cooking kits. The earthquake caused considerable loss of agricultural land in Pakistan and as a result the majority of households were unable to plant winter wheat. We provided families with seeds, fertilisers and tools so they could start growing their own food again.
By the end of September 2006, 416 tracing requests, from people seeking relatives missing since the earthquake were submitted either to the ICRC family links website or collected by the ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent in the field. Out of the tracing requests submitted, 223 cases have been closed altogether.
At the beginning of 2007, the Red Cross moved from relief operations into a recovery phase. The British Red Cross identified a number of marginalised communities in the remote NWFP, which were receiving little or no support from other organisations.
As part of our strategy to meet humanitarian needs that are not being met by others, we completed schemes to provide drinking water to four remote mountainous villages, as well as providing the materials necessary to support improvements in two more remote villages.
We also supported the re-building of a girls’ middle school in Mera Bakot, Jammu and Kashmir for 250 pupils.
Updated 24 July 2009
Find out about recovery work carried out by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Read about our logistics emergency response unit