Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Three killed as Pakistan jolted by strong 5.2 quake

Published 10:48 pm | September 24, 2019

At least three people have been killed and dozens wounded after a strong earthquake rattled eastern Pakistan,
forcing residents into the street in several cities as witnesses also claimed a building collapsed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The epicentre of the shallow 5.2-magnitude quake was near the Kashmiri city of Mirpur, roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Jhelum in agricultural Punjab province, according to revised data released by the US Geological Survey. Earlier it had put the magnitude at 5.8.

“More than 70 people have been wounded and at least three killed in the earthquake,” Saeedur Rehman Qureshi, an official from the State Disaster Management Authority, told AFP. Pakistan’s military deployed “aviation and medical support” teams along with troops to affected areas in Kashmir, according to its spokesman.

“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,” Pakistan’s chief meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told AFP. Other authorities gave conflicting tolls.

The prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider Khan, said at least 100 people were injured and being treated in a Mirpur hospital. “Our infrastructure has been destroyed,” Khan told reporters. Naeem Chughtai, a Mirpur resident living near the city’s main hospital, told AFP that at least one 10-year-old girl had been killed.

He also said the area’s infrastructure — including roads, mobile phone towers, and electricity poles — had been badly damaged by the quake. Witnesses Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir, who spoke to AFP by telephone from Mirpur, said the quake had caused a building to collapse and inflicted heavy damage on at least one road.

Mirpur, a city known for its palatial houses, has strong ties to Britain and the majority of its 450,000 residents carry both British and Pakistani passports. A spokeswoman at the British High Commission told AFP they were monitoring the reports, while the US embassy offered its sympathies to those affected via Twitter.

-‘So anxious’-

Local media aired images showing a damaged major road where multiple vehicles could be seen trapped in large cracks. Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, with the Press Trust of India reporting that panicked people rushed out of their homes and offices in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.

“The earthquake was felt but there are no reports of any damage,” Amir Ali from the disaster management department in Indian-administered Kashmir told AFP. With Indian-held Kashmir’s mobile and internet services mostly cut off after the region’s autonomy was stripped by New Delhi in early August, people used social media to express fears about not being able to get in touch with their families in the valley.

“Dear @AmitShah (Home Affairs Minister) please restore mobile services in Kashmir I do not know any update since Aug 5 about my family . We are now feeling so anxious about our family in aftermath of Earthquake,” Faizan Peer tweeted.

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 Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.



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