QUETTA: Over 150 people were killed and hundreds injured during a major earthquake which hit many areas of mainly Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab on Tuesday afternoon.
An emergency was declared in Balochistan’s Awaran district, the most affected area. It is feared that the death toll may rise.
Earlier, official sources confirmed 45 dead, 16 in Mangoli, seven in Turtaj, six in Lubash and 16 in other areas of Awaran district and its suburbs. Kalat Division commissioner Akbar Haripal told The News that 33 people were killed and 28 wounded in Awaran. On the contrary, independent sources from Awaran said that more than 150 people lost their lives when the major earthquake jolted the area, smashing the mud houses.
Following the major earthquake, an island emerged near the Gwadar coast, officials of the Gwadar administration confirmed.
Gwadar Police DIG Mauzam Jah said the island’s height was 20-40 feet and width around 300 feet. Sources said that rescue operation was in progress as dozens of injured people were being shifted to Awaran District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital. Residents of the area were recovering the dead and injured buried under the wreckage of their houses. Thousands of people have been rendered shelterless in the Awaran district.
According to official sources, hundreds of mud houses collapsed in mountainous and almost inaccessible areas. The houses were built on the hills and thus could not sustain the jolts of the earthquake, the sources added. The officials feared that since a vast area was affected by the earthquake, the number of casualties and volume of the losses may increase.
More than 50 injured persons who received serious wounds were shifted to the DHQ Hospital through private vehicles. Due to lack of health facilities and shortage of medicines in Awaran, the people had to face numerous problems. Medical teams and drugs and other relief goods were sent to the earthquake-hit areas, said Jan Muhammad Buledi, a spokesman of the Balochistan government.
He said two teams of doctors from Khuzdar and Lasbela with drugs, 1,000 tents and ration for 1,000 families had also been dispatched to Awaran.
The official sources said that the losses caused by the earthquake were to the tune of millions of rupees and they were still not sure about the exact volume of losses. They said dozens of houses were damaged while hundreds of cattle heads were also reportedly killed.
Officials of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) told TheNews that Erra had mobilised its damage assessment teams in the affected areas.
The earthquake was felt at 4:29pm. People rushed out of their houses to escape the feared disaster. According to the local seismic centre, the magnitude of the earth quake was 7.7 on the Richter Scale while its epicentre was 123 kilometres in southeast of Khuzdar district. However, the intensity of the earthquake was recorded as 7.8 by some US seismic observatories.
Officials of the local seismic centre said the earthquake was amongst the top three major earthquakes in Balochistan. The largest earthquake had hit the area in 1905 which was measured 8 on the Richter Scale. In May 1935, an earthquake killed about 40,000 people in Quetta and was recorded as 7.5 on the Richter Scale.
Reports form Khuzdar, Kalat, Mastung, Gwadar, Turbat, Kharan, Chaghai, Pishin, Quetta, Jafferabad, Nasirabad, Sourab, Qalat, Panjgur, Mastung, Dalbandin, Sibi, Karachi, Larkana, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Thatta, Khairpur, Jacobabad, Noushero Feroz, Padedan, Hangourja, Rasoolabad, Tando Muhammad Khan, Swat and Islamabad said that the earthquake was also felt there.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch expressed deep grief and sorrow over the huge human and material losses due to the earthquake. They directed the authorities to take immediate measures for rescue and relief of the affected people.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif expressed grief and sorrow over the losses caused by the earthquake. He directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman to keep him updated on the losses, relief and evacuation measures, on regular basis.
The prime minister also directed the local administration to provide all necessary help and assistance to the affected people on priority basis.He said the federal government would provide all possible assistance to the earthquake victims.
Pakistan Muslim League (PML) leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Pervez Elahi and Moonis Elahi expressed grief over the tragedy. MQM leader Altaf Hussain said he and his party workers were with the affected people in this hour of trial.
AP adds: “We all ran out for safety in the open field in front of our house. Many other neighbours were also there. Thank God no one was hurt in our area but the walls of four or five house collapsed,” said Khair Muhammad Baloch, who lives in Awaran, roughly 50 kilometres south of the epicentre.
Pakistan’s chief meteorologist, Mohammed Riaz, put the magnitude of the quake at 7.7, while the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., said it was magnitude 7.8.
The head of Pakistan’s Earthquake Centre, Zahid Rafi, warned of possible aftershocks.The quake was felt as far away as New Delhi, the Indian capital, but no damage or casualties were immediately reported there, said Jai Chandra, a meteorologist with the India Meteorological Department.
The quake also jolted Karachi. People in the city’s tall office buildings rushed into the streets following the tremor, and Pakistani television showed images of lights swaying as the earth moved.
“I was working on my computer in the office. Suddenly I felt tremors. My table and computer started shaking. I thought I was feeling dizziness but soon realised they were tremors,” one Karachi resident, Muhammad Taimur, said.
A security guard at a bank in one of the buildings said he locked the doors after everyone left the office, then rushed into the street.
“At the time I felt the strong shock, I went inside the office to watch the TV. Other people were yelling ‘Earthquake!’ Leave the office!” said Muhammad Akhtar.In Quetta, people also fled their homes and offices in panic.
Matiullah Khan, a cellphone vendor in Quetta, said he was in his shop with a customer when the cabinet and shelves started to shake.
“I along with customers rushed out to the main street ... Thousands of people were standing, many in fear and reciting Quranic verses,” he said.