(Nov. 2, 2005) The 7.6-magnitude earthquake that hit northern parts of Pakistan and India on Oct. 8 has left an estimated 75,000 people dead and more than 3 million homeless. The epicenter was located near the city of Muzaffarabad in the Pakistani region of Azad Kashmir, on Pakistan’s disputed Kashmiri border with India. Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and India’s Jammu and Kashmir Province were also heavily damaged by the quake.

As more debris is cleared, the death toll could climb higher. The high number of casualties makes the Muzaffarabad earthquake one of the top 10 deadliest earthquakes to strike in 100 years. The latest fatality estimates mean this earthquake has already proven far deadlier than most temblors, which kill an average of 1,879 people.

Asia Worst-Hit by Major Earthquakes

Approximately 450 major earthquakes (those that have killed 10 or more people or injured 100 or more) have struck Asia since 1901—more than have hit any other continent. Between May 1901 and June 2005, the average earthquake in Asia killed 2,913 and left 135,652 in immediate need of emergency food, water, shelter, sanitation, or medical assistance (see Table 1).


Table 1
Numbers and Effects of Earthquakes from 1901 to 2005, by Continent*

No. of quakes Total killed Average
killed/quake
Total
affected**
Average affected/quake
Africa
64
21,027
329
1,6748,860
25,763
Americas
229
195,749
855
24,782,195
108,219
Asia
447
1,302,189
2,913
60,636,561
135,652
Europe
215
346,801
1,613
10,674,311
49,648
Oceania
38
439
12
88,161
2,320
Total
993
1,866,205
1,879
97,830,088
98,520

*Based on data for earthquakes that occurred from May 1901 to June 2005. Database includes earthquakes in which at least one of the following criteria was met: 10 or more people were reported killed, at least 100 people were reported affected, a call for international assistance was made, or a state of emergency was declared.
**Number affected includes people requiring immediate help with basic survival needs such as food, water, shelter, sanitation or immediate medical help.
Source: EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database (www.em-dat.net, accessed Oct. 11, 2005).


The Demographics of Affected Areas

Areas hardest-hit by the earthquake include some that are the poorest and contain the youngest populations in South Asia. More than 40 percent of the population in both the NWFP and Jammu and Kasmir Province are under age 15. Almost 27 percent of the NWFP’s workforce is unemployed, while the mountainous region of Azad Kashmir has an estimated unemployment rate of between 35 percent and 50 percent and only one doctor for approximately every 5,800 people (see Tables 2 and 3). Literacy rates range from approximately 60 percent in Azad Kashmir to approximately 35 percent in NWFP, where fewer than one in five women know how to read.


Table 2
Selected Demographic Data for Azad Kashmir Region, Pakistan

Population
2,973,000
Average annual population growth rate (%)
2.3
Population per doctor
5,786
Population per hospital bed
1,982
Percent urban
12
Population density (persons per km2)
258
Percent literate (ages 10+)
60
Percent unemployed
30-50
Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births
56
Maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births
350

Source: Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government, “Facts and Figures” (www.ajk.gov.pk, accessed Oct. 11, 2005).


Table 3
Selected Demographic Indicators for Pakistan, Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and India’s Jammu and Kashmir Province

Pakistan
NWFP
Jammu and Kashmir
Population
152,100,000
17,744,000
10,143,700
Average annual population growth rate (%)
2.7
2.8
2.5
Percent urban
32.5
16.9
24.9
Sex ratio (number males per 100 females)
108.5
105.0
112.0
Population density (persons per km2)
166.3
238.1
99.0
Percent under age 15
43.4
47.2
35.6
Percent literate (ages 10+)
43.9
35.4
54.5*
Males
54.8
51.4
66.6
Females
32.0
18.8
43.0
School enrollment ratio
36.0**
31.5**
55.2***
Percent unemployed
19.7
26.8
NA

*For age 7 and older.
**For ages 5-24.
***Net enrollment ratio for ages 7-11.
NA = Not available.
Sources: Government of Pakistan Ministry of Economic Affairs and Statistics, “Demographic Indicators, 1998 Census” (1998); Office of the Registrar General, India, “Census of India, 2001: A Series, General Population Tables” (2001); S.N. Nandy and K.S. Rao, “Census 2001: Population Dynamics of Indian Himalaya,” ENVIS Bulletin 9, no. 2 (2001); and UNESCO, “The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports: India” (2000).


Sandra Yin is associate editor and Robert Lalasz is senior editor at the Population Reference Bureau.


References

  1. Integrated Regional Information Networks, “Efforts Shift to Relief as Quake Toll Leaps,” accessed online at www.irinnews.org , on Oct. 11, 2005.
  2. Reuters, “Pakistan Increases Quake Toll to Over 73,000,” accessed online at www.alertnet.org, on Nov. 2, 2005.
  3. EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, accessed online at www.em-dat.net , on Oct. 11, 2005.