23 dead, more than 300 injured as 5.8-magnitude quake rocks northern Pakistan

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International desk, September 24: A powerful 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted several cities and northern parts of Pakistan on Tuesday afternoon, leaving at least 23 people dead and over 300 others injured, officials said. At least 100 of those injured are in a critical state.

The temors lasted for 8-10 seconds but were felt strongly, DawnNewsTV reported.

The cities where the temors were felt included Sialkot, Sargodha, Mansehra, Gujrat, Chitral, Malakand, Multan, Shangla, Bajaur, Swat, Sahiwal, Rahim Yar Khan and Mirpur.

The shallow quake hit 22.3 kilometres north of Jhelum along the boundary separating the agricultural heartland of Punjab and Azad Kashmir, according to the US Geological Survey.

“The quake was 10 kilometres deep and was felt in most of Punjab province, some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The worst hit was Mirpur, Azad Kashmir,” chief meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told AFP.

Witnesses Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir told AFP at least 50 people were injured by the quake that caused a building to collapse in Mirpur and inflicted heavy damage on at least one road. There are also reports of walls collapsing in the area.

Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, while the Press Trust of India reported that people rushed out of their homes and offices in panic in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.

Najeeb Ahmed, a deputy director at Pakistan Meteorological Department’s earthquake centre, told DawnNewsTV that the quake measured 5.8 on the magnitude scale and was at a depth of 10 kilometres.

The quake sent people racing out of buildings and offices in cities across the country.

The military’s media wing tweeted that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has issued directions for troops to conduct an “immediate rescue operation” in aid of the civil administration for victims of the earthquake in AJK.

Army troops with aviation and medical support teams have been dispatched to the area, it added.

Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people, flattening buildings in rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.

The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in AJK.

People in the capital and other cities took to social media to share how they experienced the earthquake.

Tremors felt in India

Photos and video carried by TV channels showed dozens of collapsed buildings and homes, uprooted trees and cracks in roads large enough to swallow cars in Mirpur.

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 told Reuters by telephone. “I have never seen such a devastating earthquake in this 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 hospital.”

Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, while the Press Trust of India reported that people rushed out of their homes and offices in panic in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. According to DNA India, the quake was also felt in parts of Indian-occupied Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.

Rescue efforts

The military’s media wing had tweeted soon after the quake that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has issued directions for troops to conduct an “immediate rescue operation” in aid of the civil administration for victims.

Army troops with aviation and medical support teams have been dispatched to the area, the statement had said.