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Library destruction in Muzaffarabad

Library destruction in Muzaffarabad
Thu, 20 Oct 2005

Nuzhat Rahman, of the Library of Congress 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 Muzaffarabd 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
  Muzaffarabd.  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."

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