Fieldset
Just when you think the shaking's stopped

The days that follow the first quake consist largely of preparing for a possible intervention in the area. One of MSF’s strengths is being able to respond to a disaster quickly.

The days that follow the first quake consist largely of preparing for a possible intervention in the area. One of MSF’s strengths is being able to respond to a disaster quickly. It’s the first time that an earthquake of this magnitude has occurred in the area; but many of MSFers have experience of how to react to a disaster, no matter what its cause.

Preparation is coordinated from Islamabad and Quetta. Information is sought and we ask around at our existing projects for how many people are available to go to the affected area. Activities need to continue in our other projects, of course. One of the criteria is that the people sent to the area speak the local language.

A team of essential staff is sent to a town in the south of the affected area, ready to go. Some of the motivated people who offered to travel go straight away. Some wait to travel at a later time, this way, it’s easier to keep our existing projects going.

I’m in the office on Saturday, just to send an email about our staff who’d left our project earlier that day, when my screen starts to shake. A colleague in the next office walks out of the door at the same moment as me – not again? I walk outside and go straight to the meeting point; the buckets filled with sand. Again, they’re moving, like a few days earlier. As we wait outside in the sun with our colleagues, the movement makes me a bit nauseous. Unlike the first earthquake, you really can feel the swaying when up on your feet.

© Erik Slingerland

Taken when the ground wasn't shaking

Once back inside the office, we have a look on the internet for the location and magnitude of this earthquake. It appears to have been 30 kilometres away from the previous epicentre - a 6.9 on the Richter scale. How many houses and huts are still standing and how many collapsed? How many people has this earthquake injured? How many people have died this time, just after surviving the first? This is when relief work is more than needed.