On October 8, 2005, the catastrophic Kashmir earthquake struck Pakistan. Centered near the city of Muzaffarabad, it registered a magnitude of 7.6 and had a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme). It is the most destructive recorded earthquake to ever hit South Asia, and Time Magazine included it on their list of the 10 deadliest earthquakes of all time.
Over 86,000 people died and a similar number were injured, while millions were left homeless and left displaced in military camps. Hospitals and rescue services were rendered dysfunctional, with an apocalyptic level of destruction that did not allow first responders to give survivors aid for weeks and even months.
Asim Khan, who was just six-years-old at the time, was caught in the epicenter of the catastrophe, somehow lived to tell the tale, even when members of his own family were not so lucky.
“I was under a shelter, surrounded by dead bodies,” he said about the earthquake’s deadly aftermath. “Three of my siblings were lying dead in front of me. Help arrived after two days and took us out of the destroyed land. I have seen death very closely, but luckily, I’m one of the survivors.”
Asim Khan Recounts the Circumstances Surrounding the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake
Had it not been for a small twist of fate, Asim may not have survived the earthquake. That day, he and one of his brothers had been out fishing. When he returned home, his mother asked him where his jacket was. He soon realized that he had left it at the fishing spot, so he went back to get it.
On the way home for the second time, while in a marketplace, Asim felt the ground begin to shake. Before long, he was watching buildings collapse. Had he been home when the earthquake initially struck, his house could have collapsed with him inside.
Who Did Asim Khan Lose in the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake?
Aside from countless neighbors and friends, Asim lost three siblings to the disaster: one brother and two sisters. His brother was an adult at the time, one of his sisters was a young adult who had recently become engaged, and the other sister was his five-year-old little sister.
The circumstances surrounding the passing of his sisters are especially tragic, as his older sister had managed to run out of their house after the initial shake, but realized that the five-year-old was still inside, and ran back in to save her. Shortly after she entered the house, the building collapsed on top of them.
Asim, who was also inside the building, managed to survive due to his positioning near a support wall. He lay in the rubble next to his deceased siblings until family members and neighbors were able to dig him out two days later.
With emergency services overwhelmed by the sheer volume of destruction and death toll, no outside help was available to Asim’s community. For a long while after the earthquake, survivors had no one to rely on but each other.
They helped each other build shelters and communally shared found food while it was still available. As supplies ran out, the army air-dropped supplies from helicopters, but civil unrest was growing as resources ran low.
After fighting broke out, the army came to intervene, and relocated survivors to refugee camps that were set up by the military. Asim and his surviving family members spent three to four months in a camp that offered stability and education services for those that required shelter.
Despite horror stories coming out of many refugee camps, Asim recalls the situation as a decent experience, with plentiful food and skills training for the people who lost everything to have a shot at rebuilding their lives. After their time in the camp, Army officers helped the family move to a new province Lahore, where they all still reside to this day.
Asim and his family will never forget the trauma of the earthquake, but they have been able to create new lives for themselves in the wake of the destruction. The anniversary of the event is always a sad day for both his family and the entire country. It is a day of silence, mournful prayer, and remembrance of those who were taken away too early.
What Did Asim Khan Learn from the Experience?
While enduring a historic catastrophe will always haunt Asim, he was able to rise up out of the tragedy. For some, experiencing something so traumatic would understandably drain them of their will to live, but Asim uses the harrowing memories as motivation to pursue his passions while he still has time.
Life for all of us is fleeting, and Asim knows this better than anyone. This is why for as long as he has life, he will live it to the fullest by pursuing his passions.
“This is the lesson I have learned,” he remarked. “No matter what, never stop running. As fast as you’ll go, everything will go against you, everyone will go against you. But one day, you’ll achieve what you want. Just remember one thing—never stop chasing your dreams.”