MUZAFFARABAD/ISLAMABAD: A magnitude 5.8 quake shook northern Pakistan on Tuesday, destroying buildings, cracking roads, killing 26 people, including an army soldier, and injuring nearly 700 more, government and police officials said. The quake struck 14 miles north of Jhelum, roughly 120 kms southeast of Islamabad, at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kms, the US Geological Survey reported.
"The quake was 10km (six miles) deep... The worst hit was Mirpur," Chief Meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told the AFP. Other cities where tremors were felt included Islamabad, Mirpur, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sialkot, Sargodha, Mansehra, Gujrat, Chitral, Malakand, Multan, Shangla, Bajaur, Swat, Sahiwal, and Rahim Yar Khan.
Most of the injured were from the outskirts of Mirpur, such as Afzalpur, Jatlan and New City. The tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, with the Press Trust of India reporting that panicked people rushed out of their homes and offices in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.
Photos and video carried by the local media showed dozens of collapsed buildings and homes, uprooted trees and cracks in roads large enough to swallow cars in Mirpur district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Muhammad Safdar, 60, who lives near Mirpur, said he was in his house when it suddenly started shaking. "We saw walls and the roof developing cracks and ceiling fans and other articles falling down, and we rushed out into an open field," he said by telephone. "I have never seen such a devastating earthquake inthis area in my life."
Ramzan Ahmad, 65, who suffered a head injury and bleeding nose, said that he was with his family of seven when his house collapsed. "We all got injuries," he said. "I saw dozens of houses razed on my way to the hospital."
"The earthquake was felt but there are no reports of any damage," Amir Ali, from the disaster management department in Indian-Occupied Kashmir, told AFP. Mushtaq Minhas, AJK Information Minister, said tents, food and other essential items were being dispatched for the affected people.
“We are facing a tragedy, but we will try our best to ensure rehabilitation of the affected people as soon as possible," he told an international news agency. Mahboob Ahmed, a doctor at a village hospital near Mirpur, said they had treated 700 people and most of them were later discharged or referred to the district's main hospital, where better health facilities were available.
Raja Qaiser, a deputy commissioner, said rescuers were still transporting victims to hospitals in Mirpur. Emergency was declared in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. District Commissioner Mohammad Tayyab and district police chief Irfan Saleem said 22 people were dead and nearly 200 injured.
Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal said at a briefing in Islamabad that he could confirm 10 deaths. He warned of aftershocks during the next 24 hours and said the authority had been instructed to take all necessary precautionary measures to avoid any further loss of lives and damage to public and private property.
"Things are under control," he said, adding that the nearby Mangla Dam, one of two main water reservoirs, was unaffected by the quake.
He said for a day or two after the quake, the focus of departments concerned will be on rescue activities. The NDMA chairman said an appeal for help will be made to the nation if needed. He said for the next two days, the focus will be on rescue and then on data gathering about the damage. He said all disaster management authorities had been directed to share details of losses and damages.
General Afzal said rescue operations would take a day or two, adding that they were distributing blankets, tents and kitchen sets among the affected people. He said the area between Jhelum and Mirpur had suffered more damage. In a tweet, DG Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said troops with aviation and medical support teams had been dispatched to the affected areas.
According to General Ghafoor, three communication bridges near Jatlan were damaged. Jatlan-Mangla Road settled at multiple locations rendering it unusable. The weak/old structures in Mirpur, Jatlan and Jarikas suffered medium to minor damages. There was no damage to the Mangla Dam.
It said army teams were busy in rescue & relief efforts in coordination with other stakeholders. Army Engineers teams with equipment undertook immediate repair work on Jatlan-Mangla Road and bridges at Jatlan, while doctors and paramedics are providing necessary medical care.
It said CMH Mangla and Jhelum had been made available for all casualties. A Wapda spokesperson said Mangla Dam and its powerhouse have not suffered any damage in the quake. He said a team of experts had reached the site to conduct a detailed damage assessment and will prepare a report. He said the team had reported the site as safe.
The spokesperson said the quake caused the turbine water to become polluted which is why it was turned off. Power generation will resume as soon as the water and turbines are cleaned, he said.
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider was in Lahore when the tragedy took place. He cut short his visit and rushed to Mirpur to supervise rescue, relief and rehabilitation services. “The prime minister has directed all government departments to leave no stone unturned in helping out victims of this [...] natural disaster,” his office said in a statement.
President Dr Arif Alvi expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the loss of lives and expressed sympathies with the affected families. He also prayed for the departed souls and an early recovery of the injured persons.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his deep concern over the damage and directed all departments to provide immediate assistance,” said a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.
It said the premier had also directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to expedite relief activities in the affected areas. ANP chief Asfandyar Wali, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, and KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan expressed their grief over the tragedy.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said compensation would be announced after collecting data of the affected people. Talking to the media persons here, she said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was also gathering details about the victims and would make the same public. A spokeswoman at the British High Commission told AFP they were monitoring the reports, while the US embassy offered its sympathies to those affected via Twitter.
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