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Pakistan Marks First Anniversary of Deadly Earthquake


Pakistan has marked the one-year anniversary of last October's deadly South Asia earthquake (7.6) with displays of both grief and frustration. The president led a national memorial ceremony and millions held a moment of silence but many earthquake survivors have also joined protests against the government's recovery programs.

At 8:52 Sunday morning (local time), exactly one year after last October's deadly earthquake, millions of people across Pakistan observed a minute of silence.

The earthquake killed more than 73,000 people in northern Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Another 3.5 million were left homeless.

Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf led a special memorial service near the quake's epicenter in Muzafarrabad.

The president praised the country's emergency response effort and commended the military in particular for helping lead the massive relief operation.

International donors have pledged more than $6 billion in aid,including more than $500 million from the United States.

The U.S. also played a key role immediately after the quake struck. Within 48 hours American helicopters were ferrying aid into the quake zone and helping evacuate the wounded. U.S. officials say it was
the largest helicopter airlift in military history.

But one-year later local residents say the reconstruction effort has been both slow and uneven. Frustrations throughout the quake zone have been mounting.

The aid agency Oxfam says up to one-point-eight million people are facing a second Himalayan winter without proper shelter.

Thousands of families are still living in basic tents without heat or access to clean water.

The government-run Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority, known as ERRA, is pushing to provide cold-weather protection for everyone affected by the earthquake.

But on Saturday, more than a thousand people rallied outside the authority's main offices in Islamabad.

Protestor Sarwar Bari says the agency has been slow to release long promised compensation checks to help families rebuild their damaged homes.

"This demonstration clearly shows that the ERRA policy has miserably failed. People are not satisfied, not even five percent of the people are happy," Bari says.

President Musharraf insists the government is doing everything it can for the quake survivors, saying more than $500 million has already been handed out. He has also promised that within three years at least 80 percent of the total reconstruction in the quake zone will be completed.

The president traveled throughout the quake region Sunday speaking with survivors and opening new health and education facilities.

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