On this day in 2005, a massive 7.6-magnitude earthquake strikes the Kashmir border region between India and Pakistan. An estimated 70,000 people—nearly half of them children—were killed and 70,000 more were injured. More than 3 million were left homeless and without food and basic supplies. Kashmir is located at the juncture of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates—the collision of which caused the formation of the Himalayas—making it prone to intense seismic activity. The 2005 earthquake, classified as major by the U.S. Geological Survey, may have been the worst to ever hit the region. It caused extensive destruction in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province; the western and southern regions of the Kashmir Valley, part of India-administered Kashmir; and northern Pakistan. Damage was also reported in northern India and Afghanistan. More than 140 aftershocks rocked the area in the hours after the quake.
In some places, whole sections of towns slid off cliffs and entire families were killed. The provincial capital of Muzaffarabad suffered severe devastation and the town of Balakot was almost completely wiped out. In all, hundreds of thousands of buildings were destroyed. The earthquake occurred just before the onset of the region’s harsh winter, exacerbating the disaster’s effects. Within a week, snow started to fall in some of the affected areas. In addition, landslides wiped out large numbers of the region’s roads, making many of the damaged areas inaccessible to relief workers in the immediate aftermath. Damages from the earthquake were expected to exceed $5 billion. The outpouring of aid was generous, with pledges totaling more than $5.5 billion.