Paper No. 90-10
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM
ORAL HISTORIES OF THE 1945 MAKRAN DISASTER
Sixty-seven survivors of the 1945 Makran earthquake and tsunami were interviewed in Pakistan during the past two years. The places they described are along the Makran coast (Jiwani, Ganz, Peshukan, Gwadar, Surbandar, Pasni, Kalmat, Ormara, and Daam), in the Karachi area (at Hawke's Bay and in Karachi Port), and in the Indus Delta (at Keti Bander, Kharo Chhan, and vicinity). Their accounts were related in Urdu, Balochi, and Sindhi. The accounts commonly contain hearsay and some are sketchy. But many of the eyewitnesses told of details that are convincingly vivid, as in: a young mother wrestles with a cradle that the pre-dawn earthquake has rocked; collapse of a stone house entraps a recently married sister; an imam halts the pre-dawn Fajr prayer as the sea loudly approaches the mosque; the water is knee-deep near a saint's shrine that survives the flooding; disaster relief from Balouchi tribes arrives by green jeep in one town and by black, white, and red horses in another; the tsunami victims include a bejewelled woman in bridal dress, an elder crushed by beached boats while searching for her fisherman nephew, and 28 Muslims and 7 Hindus recalled by name. Ground-surface elevations have yet to be measured at the reported tsunami limits. Most of the affected villages in the Indus Delta no longer exist. Period documents consulted include the "Baluchistan Agency Administrative Report for 1945-46," which gives death tolls for Pasni (46) and Ormara (78, plus 12 missing); fortnightly reports from officials of the colonial government of Sind, who faulted the anti-colonial Congress Party for claiming that thousands died in the Indus Delta; and two Karachi dailies, the Karachi Gazette and Sind Observer, which provide local reporting on losses in Sind. The losses in the Indus Delta were likely closer to the Congress Party estimates than the fortnightly reports say. The death total probably exceeded the 300 maximum that is estimated in a standard reference, "A History of Persian Earthquakes" (1982). One of the interviewed survivors gave compelling testimony about hundreds of deaths in Karachi Port, on Baba and Bhit Islands, that are unconfirmed in the period documents consulted. Previous proposals about tsunami sources could be reviewed in light of consistent reports from the Makran coast that the sea receded before the first wave came ashore.