STUDENTS APPEAL FOR EARTHQUAKE RELIEF

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by Sonja Puzic
News Editor

A student who lost a family member in Saturday’s South Asian earthquake is appealing to the Ryerson community to donate money for the victims of the disaster.

Ahmed Butt, a second-year aerospace engineering student, is mourning the loss of his cousin Mona, who died in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan when the earthquake struck.

“She was in the kitchen. The fridge fell on her legs,” Butt said. “By the time they went to help her the roof collapsed. She screamed for 24 hours.”

Mona was only 32 and had three children. The rest of her family survived.

A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake destoryed thousands of homes and flattened villages in Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and India early Saturday. The quake was centred in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, northeast of the capital Islamabad.

Butt said his mother, other relatives and friends in the Islamabad region survived the earthquake’s destruction, but he wasn’t able to get in touch with family members in Kashmir and the northern region of Pakistan.

“It has been a disaster over there,” said Butt. “I’m feeling really lonely.”

Butt said he wanted to go to Pakistan right away to reunite with his family, but there were no last-minute flights available this weekend.

He has set up a website, Pakistanrelieffund.com, to collect donations for disaster relief. The website refers visitors to charitable organizations. Butt said he is looking for someone to update and expand it.

Pakistani-born Adeel Tariq, a first-year mechanical engineering student, said he wants to help Butt raise awareness about the urgency of the situation in the affected regions. His aunt and several other family members were severely injured when their three-storey building collapsed.

“First I want to start raising awarness at the university level,” he said, adding that he was upset with Canada’s initial pledge of $300,000 for earthquake victims.

“(The government) was not doing everything it could,” he said.

Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew has since boosted Canada’s aid contribution to $20-million.

Ryerson Students’ Union will donate 50 per cent of its Oct.20 Multicultural Show profits to an earthquake relief fund as well. Alam Ashraful, vice president student life and events, originally intended to use that money to give $100 to each student group that participates in the show.

“We decided to donate that money to earthquake victims instead because that is more pressing right now,” Ashraful said.

“(The people) are without food, without clothes, without relatives,” Butt said.

“This is personal. We just need one dollar (from everyone). One dollar can feed five (family) members over there.”

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