Why there were so many deaths in the Earthquake in Kashmir

The people of Chitral, Pakistan and the Nuristanis in Afghanistan build their houses in such a way as to be earthquake-proof.

There were no deaths in Chitral during the recent earthquake, even though they were near the epicenter of the earthquake.

Essentially, the way they do this is that the weight of the roof rests on stilts. Even if the stilts move back and forth, the roof will not fall. The walls which are made of mud will fall down, but the walls will not hit a person very hard and will probably not kill anybody.

One reason I know about this is that Professor Israr-ud-Din of the Department of Geography of the University of Peshawar wrote his thesis on this subject and he explained this to me twenty-five years ago.

The Chitralis have been building their houses this way for the last thousand years. Most earthquake victims were school children. What obviously happened is that International Aid Agencies built schools in a well-intended effort to educate the children. However, the aid agencies did not know about the earthquakes and so they built the schools of brick and concrete. The roofs of these buildings fell and killed the children inside.

Perhaps it would have been better to let the local people who were familiar with the earthquake problem do the work.

Sam Sloan

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