Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Library destruction in Muzaffarabad

Library destruction in Muzaffarabad

From: Walter Henry <consdist-request<-a>
Date: Thursday, October 20, 2005
Nuzhat Rahman, Head, Acquisitions, Library of Congress--Islamabad,
Pakistan reports

   "[T]he National Library of Muzaffarabad, was wiped off the face
    of the earth in [the] October 8 earthquake.  On that fateful
    morning while the fury of nature was unleashed the ground under
    [the] library split open and the whole building with all the
    staff, the readers and the treasures caved in leaving only the
    debris of its front entrance on the ground.  With 80% of the
    city along with its population perished there was no one to
    mourn this loss.

   "The only road from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad was blocked for a
    couple of days due to land slides and at some places parts of
    road vanished as the mountains ripped apart. The scale of
    devastation was known when rescue workers and media persons
    managed to reach Muzaffarabad, Mansehra, Balakot and Ravalakot,
    the worst hit cities. We learned that 80% of Muzaffarabad was
    destroyed, it is still littered with dead bodies and debris.

   "I was very anxious to find out about Khurshid National Library
    as it was my focal point during my acquisitions trips to
    Muzaffarabad.  In one of the TV reports I saw a portion of the
    debris of Khurshid National Library.  I tried to find out about
    the staff and the damage to the library but was unable to get
    any authentic information.  On Monday a friend from "The News"
    went to Muzaffarabad for some relief work and I requested him to
    find out about the library,  he called me yesterday and gave the
    details I have mentioned [above].  He went to the site and gave
    the graphic details of what he saw.  Usually the buildings
    collapse on the ground and if, not all, some are saved but most
    of the parts of this unfortunate library were buried deep down.

   "There were about 25 staff members working in two shifts most of
    the staff worked in the morning and some in the evening for
    general reading room and guard duties only.  I have been unable
    to find out about any of the staff not on duty at that time, who
    survived. Rescue and relief workers told my friend that when
    they came they could hear screams from the spot but were unable
    to dig out any one dead or alive from the buried library as it
    was an impossible task, they did not have any machinery or

   "I desperately want to go there and find out but at the moment
    the traffic on the road is very heavy with all the relief
    workers and it is taking 8 to 10 hours to reach there due to
    damaged road.  Also people not engaged in relief work are being
    discouraged from going there as the whole city is in ruins there
    is no water, no electricity and hygienic conditions due to
    decomposing bodies are precarious, the prime minster of Azad
    Kashmir is living in a tent and has said "I am the prime
    minister of a graveyard."  On top of that because of some
    criminal minded elements involved in mugging and looting even in
    such circumstances have created the security problems as well on
    the way and in the ghost city especially for women.

   "I am shattered, I knew most of the staff there, who were very
    helpful and despite the intelligence agencies moles shadowing me
    all the time these very friendly people always welcomed me and
    helped me acquire material some of which would not have been
    acquired without their help.

   "This was the largest library of the area.  The AJK university is
    also destroyed completely along with its library, the human loss
    is so great that it will take quite a while to think and find
    out about other things.

   "There were small libraries in all the cities which have been
    destroyed.  We have a recently published directory of libraries
    in Pakistan, I will consult it tomorrow and will let you know
    the details of libraries in four cities, which have been
    destroyed completely, where not a single house is intact.

   "If and when I get any information about the fate of Khurshid
    National Library and AJK Library and if any of the staff or
    books were saved, I will let you know. Also, if I come across
    any documents or news story or article about the libraries in
    the affected area I will definitely let you know.  I do hope and
    pray that by some miracle I will have good news about the staff
    and the books."

    Nuzhat Rahman
    Head, Acquisitions
    LOC-Islamabad, Pakistan

On Fri October 21, 2005, he continues

    Just heard from a colleague at the American Center whose father
    was working for the AJK University Library and was in the
    library when the earthquake struck, that the whole campus has
    been destroyed and scores of students and teachers were killed
    there but luckily the library staff survived as the library was
    not destroyed completely but the structure is damaged.  Most of
    the books and equipment is safe as long as the damaged structure
    does not fall apart due to continuous aftershocks.

    As for the Khurshid National Library I contacted Jasmine Manzoor
    of Pakistan Television, who had gone to Muzaffarabad last week
    and in her live reporting from there I had seen the debris of
    the K.N. Library.  I talked to her on the phone and she
    confirmed that the library has caved in deep in the ground and
    only a small demolished part is visible on the ground.

    Actually the library was not on the plain ground but on a small
    hillock with a beautiful view around.  The earthquake was of
    such ferocity that according to the eyewitnesses the ground and
    hills were moving upwards and downwards like huge waves of
    water, causing mountains to move and break and at several places
    this caused the crevasses wide enough to swallow the whole
    buildings and that is what happened with the Library building.
    Two such cracks very long and very wide have divided
    Muzaffarabad in three parts.

    The library building had two floors i.e. the basement and the
    ground floor; all the treasures were in the basement, which went
    down deep in the ground.  The newspaper reading rooms and
    Administrative offices were on the ground floor.

    The total staff members were 22 and whoever was there at that
    time or at home has not been accounted for yet.  The colleague
    at the American Center had also some friends among the Library
    staff and he has been visiting regularly all the hospitals in
    Islamabad and Rawalpindi to check if any of them or any of the
    other staff has been brought there, he has not found anyone yet.

    Nuzhat Rahman
    Head, Acquisitions
    LOC-Islamabad, Pakistan

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:22
                 Distributed: Friday, October 21, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-19-22-001
Received on Thursday, 20 October, 2005

[Search all CoOL documents]