A minor girl was killed and at least 15 others injured as a 6.1-magnitude earthquake jolted various parts of the country on Wednesday, DawnNews reported.
Tremors were reported in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Charsadda, Murree, Sargodha, Shangla, Haripur and Gujranwala, as well as parts of India, Kashmir and Afghanistan.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the epicentre of the 6.1-magnitude earthquake is 35 kilometres south of Jarm in Afghanistan. The depth of the quake was estimated to be 191.2km, USGS added.
Jarm, was hit by a devastating 7.5 magnitude quake in October 2015, triggering landslides and flattening buildings, killing more than 380 people across the region. The bulk of the recorded casualties were in Pakistan, where 248 people were killed, including 202 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and more than 1,600 injured.
Following today's quake, officials dispatched teams to Balochistan and KP to assess reports of damage, but the National Disaster Management Authority does not expect serious losses, a spokesman said.
No loss of life has been reported except in Lasbela, where a girl died when the roof of her house collapsed during the shocks. Nine members of her family received injuries.
According to Lasbela Deputy Commissioner Shabir Ahmed Mengal, rescue teams were dispatched to affected areas. Several villages in Balochistan felt the tremors of the quake, the deputy commissioner added.
"The injured have been rushed to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. An emergency has been declared in all hospitals", Mengal said.
In Peshawar, Lahore and Parachinar, panicked locals ran out of their homes and came out onto the streets as the quake's tremors were felt.
Four girls received minor injuries at a primary girls school in Peshawar during a rush to evacuate the premises, Rescue 1122 sources told DawnNews. The girls were rushed to Lady Reading Hospital for treatment.
In Landi Arbab, a village near Peshawar, two children were injured as they were running out of their school in a panic, Peshawar District Nazim Muhammad Asim Khan told DawnNews.
A control room has been established and emergency services have been activated by the Chitral deputy commissioner to aid those affected by the quake.
In Islamabad, the windows and doors of the Supreme Court shook during the quake.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who was hearing a case at the time, told observers and lawyers present in the courtroom to remain seated as the "earthquake would subside after the initial shocks".
Cellphone signals were temporarily disrupted in Islamabad and Peshawar due to the quake.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Aid agencies have stressed the need for greater disaster preparedness in the war-torn country, which remains extremely susceptible to recurring natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and landslides.
But deteriorating security has seen international NGOs such as the Red Cross and Save the Children downgrade their operations across the country, making it even more difficult to deliver crucial help to its most vulnerable citizens.
2018 a deadly year for quakes, scientists fear
Scientists have warned of a significant increase in the occurrence of potentially deadly earthquakes in 2018.
The assessment was made on the basis of the Earth's movement data which shows a significant uptick in earthquakes after a certain period of slowdown in the Earth's rotation.
According to the report, geophysicists are able to measure the rotational speed of Earth with extreme precision, calculating slight variations on the order of milliseconds.
Geophysicists believe Earth's rotation is cyclical, slowing down by a few milliseconds per day then speeding up again, a geologist Trevor Nace said in the report.
Researchers found that roughly after every 32 years there was an uptick in the number of significant earthquakes worldwide.
A team of researchers found this conclusion after analysing every earthquake which occurred since 1900 at a magnitude above 7.0.
The research concluded that after almost every 30 years, Earth experiences a slowdown in its rotation.
The slowdown lasts for five years, with the last year triggering an increase in earthquakes globally.
“In these periods, there were between 25 to 30 intense earthquakes a year,” Bilham, a researcher, said last year.
“The rest of the time the average figure was around 15 major earthquakes a year,” he added.
Based on the calculations, 2017 was the fourth consecutive year that witnessed a slowdown in Earth's rotation. So scientists are expecting more earthquakes in 2018.
The correlation between Earth’s rotation and earthquakes was recently highlighted at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.
'Hindu Kush quakes may have long-lasting effects'
The USGS has termed the Hindu Kush “one of the most seismically hazardous regions on earth”. However, nearly all of the recent tremors felt in the region originated deep in the earth’s crust, nearly 200km below the surface.
In a report on earthquakes in this region, the USGS had noted that “the Hindu Kush shares this high-stress configuration with a seismically active area in Colombia, South America.” These two regions have some of the world’s highest rates of deep earthquakes.
However, scientists admit that they do not know a great deal about the forces that are in play at such depths. The USGS has stated that most such earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates rubbing together.
According to a report by the National Geographic Society, the two plates are colliding at a rate of about 1.5 inches a year, pushing up the Himalayan mountain range in the process.
Due to friction along the plate boundaries, the collisions are not smooth or even. When the rocks finally give way under the strain, the plates jerk rapidly, releasing the energy that causes an earthquake.
With the collision of plates pushing land upwards, nearby regions including Islamabad may gradually end up gaining altitude.
Or conversely, “Some areas can start sinking too. For example, La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, is sinking lower because mountains around it are rising,” Met Office DG Dr Ghulam Rasul told Dawn earlier.
Most earthquakes arise along fault zones; the ground first bends and then snaps, and an earthquake is generated to release the energy.
The earthquakes arising out of Hindu Kush region are said to be the result of slow collisions between the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian tectonic plate.
The massive 2005 Kashmir earthquake was also the result of collisions between these two plates.
Even the deadly Nepal earthquake of 2015, that triggered a massive avalanche on Mount Everest, was caused by a sudden release of built-up stress along the same fault line, USGS reported.
Experiments conducted at Stanford University mimicking pressures at such depths indicate that rocks should deform and not break rapidly enough to generate seismic waves.
It is suspected that rocks at such depths may chemically rearrange themselves into denser forms to cope with the tremendous pressure. In doing so, they may release water that can lubricate the movement of the fault.
Deep earthquakes can also be caused by friction; if a small area deep inside a fault moves, it generates heat.
The hotter it gets, the more it is able to move, and the more heat is created. This sets off a loop that has the potential to destabilise the whole fault, causing a massive quake.
The 8.1 earthquake that occurred on October 26, 2015 was also part of the same series of tremors.
In fact, there have been at least 12 aftershocks of that quake, some of which felt like mini-quakes.
The Met Office said earlier that smaller earthquakes were a good sign as they help dissipate seismic energy without causing a sudden underground jerk that may cause far more widespread damage.
Dr Rasul had said that while most earthquakes were not dangerous, the earthquakes occurring in the Hindu Kush region could prove to be dangerous.
He said that the tectonic plates too are not made of consistent material, rather there are hard rocks and even pockets of ancient water bodies.
Dr Rasul said that there was sufficient evidence of marine life having existed in the Himalayas before the formation of the mountains, as is evidenced by the presence of snails and other creatures that have evolved to survive in the new environment over time.
“Since the Indian Plate is sliding under the Eurasian plate, there could be friction caused by the presence of a massive rock formation, either under the Indian plate or the Eurasian plate,” he said.