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In Uri, survival is as bleak as death
Mukhtar Ahmad in Uri
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October 10, 2005 14:09 IST
Last Updated: October 10, 2005 21:19 IST

For villagers living in a remote area near the Line of Control, a clear, starry night in late autumn should have been heartening.

But, for 68 year old Atta Mohammad, happiness and joy are words he has forgotten. The light from the sky has in fact heightened his misery, for he can clearly see the rubble of his house under which lie buried all his dreams and belongings. That he and his family escaped alive is the only consolation for him.

Complete coverage: Tremors across borders

All Atta Mohammad could arrange for breaking the Ramzan fast was a handful of water he collected from a tanker parked near his house. Beyond this lone water tanker there was little evidence of any relief and rescue by the administration in the town.

"They provided us a tent without any erecting poles," Atta rued. "The administration failed to provide us succour when we needed it."

"I was sleeping in my room when the earth started shaking. My two sons ran out, then returned, and they virtually dragged us out of the house," he said.

The tragedy was not unique to this family of seven. Atta's wife, 60 year old Sara Begum, and four children including a daughter are no different from the hundreds of people of this town where more than 80 percent homes, school buildings, government offices and even small bridges have been completely destroyed.

The tragedy couldn't have struck the locals at a worse time. As autumn draws to close, the ensuing winter could well be a lesson in survival for the thousands of residents here who must either migrate out or brave it out in tents.

The township which bustled with life till the other day now looks like a haunted place. Officials say139 persons were killed here within less than two minutes of the quake, as houses crashed as if they were made of cardboard

The injured have been evacuated to the Baramulla district headquarters where the more seriously injured have been referred by doctors to Srinagar [Images] city.

It was a day of burials for the locals in Uri. Grave-diggers sweated it out the whole day as demand for more graves started pouring in from all over. It was definitely not the end of the world, but the lined-up bodies in white shrouds created the semblance of death having established itself firmly in a place that throbbed with life just a day before.

"After the trans-border shelling had stopped on the Line of Control two years back and the starting of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, we thought our fortunes had turned for the better. Who could imagine this bolt from the blue was yet to come?" said a frustrated Gulam Sarwar Khan, 67.

"It was a wave of water over which I stood as the earth shook in ripples. Though I learnt later that it lasted only for four minutes, those four minutes were longer than my entire life of 40 years," said Mohammad Hanief, 42, another resident of Uri town.

"I am not sure whether or not I can ever sleep peacefully in my home," he added.

"Alhumdulellah (Thank Allah) I am lucky," Atta said. He has lost his home, but managed to survive with his wife and children. Others were not as lucky.

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