- 7.5 magnitude quake kills over 200 people in Pakistan, 24 in Afghanistan
- Peshawar, Chitral, Bajaur, Buner and other localities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province amongst the most affected areas
- Death toll could rise substantially once communication lines are restored
- Army troops directed to carry out immediate rescue work in affected areas without waiting for formal orders
- Two aftershocks were reported after the quake, more expected in next 24 hours
A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 24 people; however, neighbouring Pakistan is worse hit with over 200 people dead. The numbers are expected to rise as rescue efforts cease on the first day due to nightfall.
The Met office reported that the epicentre of the quake was the Hindu Kush region Afghanistan and with a depth of 193 km. It affected Afghanistan, the North Western portion of Pakistan, and India. According to the Pakistani Met’s report, the quake measured 8.1 on the Richter scale, however the US Geological Survey put the figure at 7.5, revising it from an earlier 7.7.
The epicentre is just a few hundred kilometres from the site of a 7.6 magnitude quake that struck in October 2005, killing more than 75,000 people and displacing some 3.5 million more, although that quake was much shallower.
The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range area where the quake was centred.
CASUALTIES AROUND PAKISTAN
Peshawar, Chitral, Bajaur, Buner and other localities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are amongst the most affected areas. Chitral, Gilgit, Hunza and other northern areas braved massive land sliding mishaps after the earthquake.
An emergency has been declared in all hospitals of the KP province. Doctors and rescue workers fear the death toll would increase as the casualty figures from far-flung villages of hilly areas are yet to be received.
Seventy-four people died in the Malakand division where the severity of the quake caused damage in Shangla, Dir upper, Dir lower, Bajaur Agency and Chitral.
As many as 21 people died in Lower Dir, followed by 22 in Chitral, 17 in Bajaur Agency, 35 in Shangla, 24 people in Swat, four people died in Mardan, two people in Nowshera, four people in Charsadda, two people in Kohistan, two people in Malakand, seven people in the Hazara division, 12 in Buner district, eight in Hangu, five in Mohmand Agency, and two people in Khyber agency.
Communication systems have been badly disturbed in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and in the tribal belt. The Karakorum Highway has been blocked at various points and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) has been trying to clear the road.
A building in Peshawar caved in following the quake, trapping people inside the rubble. Reports of houses collapsing were also received from different parts of the country.
Due to huge burden on mobile networks, phone services were also affected and people found it difficult to contact their families, particularly children who were returning from school at the time the earthquake happened.
In Sargodha, according to Rescue sources, 10 schoolchildren were injured after a wall of Govt Ambala School collapsed due to quake.
A wall collapsed in Sargodha, killing one woman and injuring 10 people, while three are injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A 14-year-old child died in the Islamgarh area of Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Mirpur region after a school wall collapsed. People rushed out of their houses to open places in all AJK districts, including Muzaffarabad, Bhimbher, Kotli, Rawalakot, Bagh, and Palandri when the earthquake hit the region at 2.09 pm. No loss of life or property has been reported so far from any part of the quake-hit AJK zone.
Moreover, an eight-year-old child was killed in Kallar Kahar, whereas one casualty was also reported from Kasur after the roof of a house collapsed.
One child was killed after the wall of a school collapsed in Miani Adda area of Punjab’s Chakwal district. Three people will reported killed in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Authorities established a central crisis cell in Islamabad after the earthquake.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif directed military for immediate relief and rescue efforts.
“Army troops directed to carry out immediate rescue work in any affected areas without waiting for formal orders,” Director General ISPR, Lt General Asim Salim Bajwa said on Twitter.
The army spokesman said Gen Raheel Sharif presided over a snap conference following the earthquake and directed army teams for quick assessment of earthquake damages across country, especially in remote areas.
He said army teams have been dispatched to affected areas.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also directed all federal civil, military and provincial agencies to declare immediate alert and kick off relief and rescue activities.
Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak has directed Provincial Disaster Management Authority to provide all possible relief to the affected people.
Moreover, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) authorised all the Deputy Commissioners to utilise relief funds for the assistance and rehabilitation of the earthquake victims and provide best relief to them.
All the District Health Officers have been directed to visit respective health facilities in their districts to ensure availability of staff and necessary medicines and equipment.
SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN:
In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to get out of their school in the northeastern Afghan province of Takhar.
“They fell under the feet of other students,” said Abdul Razaq Zinda, provincial head of the Afghan National Disaster Management Agency, who reported heavy damage in Takhar.
Traffic came to a stop in downtown Kabul, with people getting out of their cars as they waited for the quake to pass.
In Afghanistan, international aid agencies working in northern areas reported that cell phone coverage in the affected areas remained down in the hours after the initial quake.
“The problem is we just don’t know. A lot of the phone lines are still down,” said Scott Anderson, deputy head of office for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul.
Badakhshan Provincial Governor Shah Waliullah Adib said about 400 houses were destroyed but he had no figures on casualties.
The mountainous region is seismically active, with earthquakes the result of the Indian subcontinent driving into and under the Eurasian landmass. Sudden tectonic shifts can cause enormous and destructive releases of energy.
AFTERSHOCKS UP AHEAD:
A representative of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has said that there is possibility of aftershocks during the next 24 hours and a countrywide alert has been issued on that count.
He said though intensity of the quake was severe but apparently, it did not cause major losses because its depth was intermediate. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has offered all possible cooperation in rescue and relief activities to the NDMA.
A PAF representative said that planes and helicopters could be provided to NDMA for relief and rescue activities.
However, two aftershocks were reported after the quake.
According to Met office, the aftershocks were reported at 2.47 pm and 2.49 pm with an intensity of 4.5 and 5.3 respectively, on the international Richter scale at the same epicentre.
– With reporting from Aziz Buneri in Peshawar and Luavut Zahid in Lahore