PESHAWAR: As a massive earthquake violently shook buildings on Monday afternoon, cries and shouts rang out in Peshawar followed by people — young and old — rushing out of structures.
A temblor of 6.1 magnitude on the Richter scale had jolted northern parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday afternoon. While the epicentre of the quake was determined to be 35 kilometres south of Jarm in the Hindu Kush, close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at a depth of around 191.5 kilometres, it was felt as far away as the provincial and the federal capitals.
As people streamed into the streets, fearful that the quake may cause buildings to collapse on top of them, they were greeted by screeches from the ambulances’ horns echoing around the city.
Those who were already on the road when the earthquake struck, stopped dead in their tracks. Cars came to an immediate halt and the passengers offloaded.
Those who had inexplicably missed the tremors watched the gathering crowds outside plazas and schools with bemusement.
Later, many took to inspecting their houses and office buildings for any possible cracks after the strong quake. Some peeped into shops to catch a glimpse of television sets to get more details of what had just happened and for any information on any potential aftershocks.
“I was sitting with my son when the first tremor jolted the building,” said Ahmed Sajjad, a resident of a multi-storey building on the Grand Trunk Road as he described how he bolted from his fourth-floor flat to the ground.
“It only gets worse after the first [shock] and I grabbed my son and rushed to the stairs as I live on the fourth floor of the building. When I came out, children and women, most of them wailing and barefooted were crowding the stairs,” he said, adding that as descended the stairs in panic while holding on tight to his three-year-old son, the building was jolted again and started swaying from side to side.
“I felt as if there were just too many stairs but the earthquake stopped just as I reached the ground floor,” he added.
Several police officers could also be seen trying to clear away traffic from roads leading up to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH).
“Though the jolts were not as intense, we have to keep the emergency gate road clear for the injured,” said a traffic police warden deployed on the road leading to the city’s largest public health facility.
The Rescue 1122 said that they had responded to a roof collapse at a primary girls school in the Landi Arbab area of Peshawar.
“It was a three-storey building and the girls had panicked due to the jolts. We provided them with first aid,” said Bilal Faizi of Rescue 1122, adding that information about the roof collapsing was overstated if not false.
Muhammad Hayat, who got stuck in the Peshawar High Court building, had to wait until those running towards the exit before exiting the compound himself.
“The building was shaking violently and making scary sounds. I stepped aside and let those, who were running, pass. I was afraid that I may get hurt in the stampede,” said Hayat while narrating his experience.
“The earthquake was of lesser intensity than that on October 27, 2015, but I was stuck on the top floor of the building,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2018.