Pakistani pupil loses classmates, family in quake

Uzair Mohammed Qureshi, a 17-year-old student at a private school, was reading his chemistry book in the classroom when the school building suddenly b

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October 9, 2005 10:28
2 minute read.

 
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Uzair Mohammed Qureshi, a 17-year-old student at a private school, was reading his chemistry book in the classroom when the school building suddenly began to shake. Seconds later, the roof caved in. Read earthquake coverage direct from Indian and Pakistani news media. About 15 to 20 students were in the room when the massive quake struck Saturday across a swath of northern Pakistan and the mountainous region of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan. Thousands died in what Pakistan called its worst-ever disaster, and India reported several hundred deaths. Reports were emerging Sunday of village after village where school buildings collapsed on top of students, killing hundreds. The quake struck shortly before 9 a.m., a time when schools were already in session. It nearly wiped out school populations in Balakot, a town of 30,000 about 100 kilometers north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. "My teacher had just left the classroom after finishing his lecture and I was reading a book when suddenly we felt a shock," Qureshi said Sunday. "Then, came another jolt and we ran toward the door to save our lives, but suddenly the roof collapsed." "For minutes I thought I have died," he said. "But after gaining consciousness, I looked around and saw a friend of mine lying near me." Qureshi's hands suffered deep cuts when hit by falling debris, but he climbed through a hole in the wall to safety and dragged his friend behind him. He said he believed the other students in his class were critically injured or killed. The teen-ager's ordeal was not over. He rushed home, but found only a pile of rubble. His parents and grandmother were dead. "Some people in our area helped me pull out the bodies of my mother and grandmother, but my father's body is still trapped in the rubble," he said. "I wish I had died and my father had survived." A day after the disaster, he sat on the rubble of his school building, still in his school uniform because he had lost all his possessions. "There is nobody who can help me save my class fellows," he said. "Is there anybody who can help me?"

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