NDMA chairman briefs media about earthquake damage, rescue efforts

Updated September 24, 2019

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National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP
National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP

National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal held a press conference on Tuesday evening to brief the media regarding the damages suffered and rescue operations underway in the wake of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake which hit the northern parts of the country.

"Right now, I can confirm the death of 10 people. Some reports have placed the figure at 17 and some at 15, but I can only confirm 10," said Lt Gen Afzal.

"Approximately 100 are injured. Some reports say 300 are injured. Some of the injured only suffered minor injuries, so if I were to count those with serious injuries, the figure is around 100," he added.

"In Mirpur, besides the city, a small qasba Jatla, and two small villages Manda and Afzalpur were among the areas hit the worst," he said, adding, "Even in these areas, the most damage was to the infrastructure there."

Besides this, some far-flung villages in Bhimber have reported injuries to people as well as small structural damages.

Speaking of infrastructural damage, Lt Gen Afzal said that the main road going from Mangla to Jatla, which runs alongside a river, has suffered major damage.

He said that three major bridges had also been damaged, along with people's residences.

"In Mirpur, besides the city, a small qasba Jatla, and two small villages Manda and Afzalpur were among the areas hit the worst," he said, adding, "Even in these areas, the most damage was to the infrastructure there."

He said that besides this, some far-flung villages in Bhimber have reported injuries to people as well as small structural damages.

"There will be a proper damage assessment over the next 2-4 days," he added.

He confirmed that the Mangla Dam was not adversely affected by the earthquake.

He said that turbine operations were shut down and are currently still suspended because a lot of silt had accumulated in the water. The dam is being drained to flush the silt after which normal operations will resume.

"The water is being released in a highly regulated manner because if more than 50,000 cusecs are released in Jhelum and PD Khan, flooding can occur. So a volume of less than 50,000 cusecs is being released," he assured the media.

Rescue efforts

According to Lt Gen Afzal, NDMA officers as well as Pakistan's armed forces including ground troops which have engineer corps and their equipment, have been dispatched to the affected areas and have either reached or are about to reach.

"At this moment, the district administration teams, State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) teams and our teams are already present in the disaster-struck areas," he said.

"I will go to those areas myself tomorrow and will take a detailed tour of the area and will brief you further then."

He said that NDMA vehicles are being loaded with 200 tents, 800 blankets, 200 kitchen sets and 100 medical kits which will reach there tonight.

"I was a bit worried about rains anticipated in the northern parts of the country over the next two days. My main concern was that if rains do occur, no one should be without a roof over their head."

"For that, we will make sure these tents and blankets not only reach tonight but are distributed further tomorrow so that in the event of rains, no one is without shelter."

He said that PDMA Punjab had also contributed to the relief efforts by volunteering 20 ambulances, medical teams, and six rescue vehicles along with a team of 100 rescue officials.

"Pakistan Army's search and rescue team is already on its way. Forces from the Jhelum and Mangla cantonments have begun to arrive," he added.

Lt Gen Afzal said that rescue and search teams from Islamabad are making preparations and will be dispatched tonight. He further said that one rescue and search team has also been dispatched from Lahore by PDMA Punjab and will reach tonight.

"In the first two days, our efforts will be geared towards carrying out rescue operations," he said.

The NDMA chairman said that over the next few days after that, besides relief efforts, a plan will be chalked out for rehabilitation, recovery and restoration of normalcy in the affected areas.