An earthquake jolted most of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata Friday afternoon 2:07pm, forcing people to rush out into the open from their homes and offices. While the recent quakes have been more restricted to specific areas, this one was more widespread.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) recorded the quake at a magnitude of 5.9, while US Geological Survey (USGS) recorded it at 5.
A PMD meteorologist Agha Babar told The Express Tribune the epicentre was about 288 kilometres northeast of Kabul city in the Hindu Kush range at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.
Babar said the depth was 227 kilometres below the surface. The tremors were felt as far up as Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral to South Waziristan along with parts of Punjab.
“I felt like someone bumped into my car,” a senior government employee at the civil secretariat told The Express Tribune. He was checking the car when others on the road told him it was an earthquake. Locals saw electricity transmission lines shaking after the tremors.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said they did not receive any reports of casualties or damage from across the province. However, some houses and buildings did develop cracks.
Speaking about the difference between the PMD and USGS readings, PMD Director General Dr Ghulam Rasul told The Express Tribune authenticity of calculations depend on the density of the network of a monitoring centre.
“The more dense a network, the more authentic the calculation,” Ghulam said. He added PMD had 20 of its own earthquake monitoring stations and took data from those of 10 other countries in the region. “As a result, our network is more dense.”
He added the USGS has less than 10 monitoring stations for the region; Ghulam claimed PMD calculations are more authentic than USGS.
The hits keep on coming
Talking about the increasing number of earthquakes in the region, Ghulam said the Indian Plate is moving under the Eurasian Plate at a speed of 38 millimetres per year.
“The earthquakes are because of the friction between the edges of these two plates,” he said. The director general added the Hindu Kush range is the most affected by this movement and not so much the Himalaya region.
He said smaller earthquakes occurring consistently were a good omen as the earth released energy due through them. As a result, the risk of bigger earthquakes was reduced. He added tremors at shallow depths caused more destruction.
Meanwhile, Chitral was shaken once again by the tremors. Panicked locals left their houses and shops, while mothers grabbed little ones and also darted into the open. Fortunately, no loss of life was reported.
Everyone’s an expert: Rumours circulate of quakes after recent jolts
With more than 851 earthquakes in 2015 and heavy jolts in 2016 throughout Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, everyone seems to be able to predict earthquakes. Of course, none of their information is verifiable and these were merely rumours circulating through various mediums.
Text messages predicting a powerful earthquake on Friday started doing the rounds as far back as Wednesday. Resident of areas like Badabher held special prayers in mosques on Thursday, said residents of the area. In some areas, loudspeakers were used to announce a massive earthquake expected at 2pm on Friday afternoon.
A leading daily newspaper in the provincial capital even published these reports with expert opinions that there is no such mechanism to predict the earthquakes. Ironically, the jolt measuring 5.9 hit the region at 2:07pm.
“It was just a difference of 7 minutes,” said one person who stood on the street along with many others.
There has been a rapid increase in such activities with little information in the public sphere to the reasons behind the increase in seismic activity.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2016.