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Pakistan Earthquake Recovery Declared a Success

Pakistan is commemorating the second anniversary of a devastating earthquake that took the lives of more than 73,000 people and left millions homeless. The government and aid workers have declared reconstruction efforts a success, largely thanks to a massive humanitarian response and a policy of giving aid directly to those people affected. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.

On the morning of October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit remote and mountainous areas of Kashmir and Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis were buried alive. Three and a half million people were left homeless when their mud-brick and stone houses, and poorly built schools, collapsed or were swept away by landslides.

Two years on, the relief effort has been declared a success. Less than 7,000 people now live in tents.

Jean Christophe Adrian of United Nations Habitat in Pakistan, which is providing reconstruction training to quake victims, says the government's policy of giving direct financial assistance to those in need has worked.

"When this approach is taken, the pace of reconstruction is much much higher, the quality of reconstruction is much better, you avoid corruption because you don't have to pass through contractors, and the actual satisfaction of the people with the end result is much higher because they rebuild a house which responds much better to their needs and their liking," said Adrian.

International donors pledged billions of dollars in aid, including half a billion dollars from the United States. This has helped re-build homes, schools, and hospitals in the devastated areas and get peoples' lives back to normal.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz Monday told an international conference on disaster risk management how surprised he was at Pakistan's own humanitarian response.

"Immediately the nation mobilized and the government mobilized. From Karachi, which is down at the coast, to the Hydra pass, Pakistan and Pakistanis united and galvanized as one nation," he said. "It was a different nation. I could see a spirit de corps which I had never seen before in my entire life in Pakistan."

The government denied early criticism that the pace of reconstruction was too slow or corrupt. Adrian says U.N. Habitat did not see any problems with corrupt officials.

But thousands of schools and hospitals still need to be built and relief workers such as Adrian wish they could provide more of the technical assistance needed to build safer and better houses.

Also on Monday, a helicopter escorting General Pervez Musharraf to an earthquake memorial at the disaster site crashed, killing four security men. Officials blamed technical problems for the crash. President Musharraf was in another helicopter and arrived safely to mark the 2nd-year anniversary.