FAISALABAD/ SWAT/ RAWALPINDI/ PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD/ BUNER: A powerful earthquake rocked large swathes of Pakistan Sunday afternoon, with casualties and damages reported in the northeastern regions and tremors felt in at least four countries.
According to the US Geological Survey it was a 6.6-magnitude quake, but the Pakistan Meteorological Department said the temblor measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. The epicentre of the quake that struck at 3:31pm at a depth of 210 kilometres was in Ishkisham, in northeastern Afghanistan.
Tremors were felt in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), but all major cities in central Pakistan, including Lahore, Multan, Sialkot, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi and Islamabad were also shaken.
According to initial assessments, at least five people were killed and dozens wounded by falling rocks and debris from buildings in upper regions which are already reeling from the devastation of heavy rains.
The deaths were reported from Charsadda, Swat and Buner districts of K-P where 20 houses were also damaged. A car was travelling on the Swat-Buner highway when a huge boulder fell on it from a mountain overlooking the road. A woman travelling in the car died, while a man was rescued by residents. Similarly, a wall collapsed in the Khwazakhela area of Swat, killing a child and injuring another.
In all, 23 people were hospitalised in Malakand division with serious and minor injuries. The quake also disrupted the cellular network in the remote areas of Malakand, leading to severe communication glitches. Casualties were also reported in the neighbouring Mohmand and Bajaur agencies and Chitral and G-B.
Medics at the Lady Reading Hospital, the main health facility in Peshawar, confirmed they have received 38 injured people – among them seven women and three children. “Most of them had minor injuries – 18 were discharged after first aid,” Dr Khalid, the director for LHR’s accident and emergency department, told The Express Tribune.
In the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, residents evacuated multi-storey apartment blocks after tremors shook ceiling fans and furniture.
Rescue 1122 District Emergency Officer Dr Abdul Rehman said no loss of life or damage property was reported in Rawalpindi. However, some dilapidated buildings located in Raja and Bhabra bazaars, Waris Khan, Tehli Mohallah, Commercial Market. College road, Gawalmandi, Chur Harpal developed cracks.
The tremor also whipped up panic and fear in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial, Pasrur, Badiana, Chawinda and surrounding areas, where residents ran out of their houses, shops and offices reciting Quranic verses. No loss of life or damage to property was reported, though.
Even half an hour after the quake struck, frightened residents in the industrial town of Faisalabad stayed away from their routine jobs. In the southern Punjab district of DG Khan, the quake triggered landslides but did not cause any casualties.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) feared aftershocks and advised people to follow guidelines. It also alerted all Provincial Disaster Management Authorities against expected aftershocks. All PDMAs and DMAs of AJK, G-B and Fata have been asked to carry out damage assessment.
Similarly, the authority also requested Pakistan Air Force to carry out aerial survey to evaluate damages to infrastructure and slope stability of mountains in G-B and K-P.
There were no casualties in Afghanistan according to an initial assessment, said Aslam Sayas, deputy director of the country's disaster management authority.
In the Indian capital New Delhi, buildings in the centre swayed and the metro train system was halted temporarily as a precaution. In Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, tremors were felt.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2016.