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The Rediff Special/ Mukhtar Ahmad in Uri
'Uri had been gobbled up by the earth'
October 07, 2006
Mohammad Yusuf, the sub-divisional police officer of Uri, had gone to Baramulla town on that fateful day.
When the earthquake struck on the morning of October 8, 2005, Yusuf had a premonition.
He had left behind his wife and his 9-month old baby in his official residence in Uri.
Yusuf feared for his family. He was 44 km away in the Baramulla town where the state governor was scheduled to visit a school.
"I rang up the Uri police control room. The phone kept ringing, but there was no response. I had a strong feeling that something awful had happened," Yusuf said.
He ran out of the school where he had been posted on special duty for the day in connection with the VIP visit.
"I climbed into my official jeep and rushed towards Uri town. The first bad news I got was near Mohra village ahead of Uri town. Some cops on the road told me that everything had been destroyed in the town. They had no idea about the survivors. There was a shower of stones from the mountains on the left side of the road. I kept on driving till I made it to the town," he recalled.
"The town I had left behind me a few hours back had vanished. It had simply been gobbled up by the earth. My wife had been seriously wounded and rescued from the house debris with great difficulty.
"The rescuers were still looking for my 9-month old son Owais. They had not lost hope but as hours ticked by, the hope of finding my son alive also started vanishing. They finally managed to dig out the body, but the soul had fled," he said with moist eyes and broken voice.
Four of Yusuf's bodyguards, Nazir, Irshad, Hanief and Rahman had also perished in the tragedy.
Yusuf's tragedy is but an archetypal example of what others went through in Uri and in the adjoining villages where the earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale struck on October 8, 2005.
In all, 950 people died, over 6,149 others were injured, and 401 of them sustained permanent disabilities. 23,838 houses were completely razed to the ground while another 18,556 were left unsafe for human dwelling across Kashmir.
Very few people have been lucky to have suffered damages to property alone. Abdul Rashid Lone, 50, is one of those 'luckier souls'.
"Alhamdullellah (Thank Allah), we only lost our house, but the entire family is safe. Compared to what others have suffered, I have been very lucky," said Lone.
According to the state administration, Rs 422 crore has already been spent on relief and rehabilitation in the quake-affected areas of the state.
This, according to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, is the largest relief and rehabilitation effort in the country in the case of a natural calamity.
Today Yusuf continues to discharge his duties in Uri town. His official residence has been reconstructed like his office building.
Every evening he gazes at the stars in the sky. According to folklore, if an innocent child dies, he becomes a star and shines in the sky.
Yusuf is trying to look for his son Owais among the millions of stars. So do thousands of others whose plight was no different from his.
Caption: Kashmiri earthquake survivors walk with the aid of crutches a year after the disaster.
Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
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