Powerful quake rattles parts of KP, Afghanistan

Published March 22, 2023
(CLOCKWISE) People gather outside a shopping mall in Islamabad following an earthquake; locals and travellers help clear a landslide on the Karakoram Highway near Raheemabad in Gilgit; and, foreign guests stand outside their hotel in Amritsar as jolts from the quake were felt across South Asia, on Tuesday night.—AFP / Dawn
(CLOCKWISE) People gather outside a shopping mall in Islamabad following an earthquake; locals and travellers help clear a landslide on the Karakoram Highway near Raheemabad in Gilgit; and, foreign guests stand outside their hotel in Amritsar as jolts from the quake were felt across South Asia, on Tuesday night.—AFP / Dawn

• Residents flee homes as 6.8 magnitude tremor jolts Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, other areas
• Initial reports put death toll at three, including two girls in KP; 150 injured in Swat
• At least two people reported dead in Badakhshan; jolts felt as far as Indian capital

ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR / LAHORE: A strong earthquake rattled the capital and other parts of the country on Tuesday night, sending panicked residents fleeing homes and offices and frightening people even in remote villages.

The 6.8 magnitude quake was primarily felt in northern parts of the country, including Rawal­pindi, Islamabad, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Muzaffarabad, Peshawar, Haripur, Mardan, Chitral, Charsadda and others.

Initial reports said at least one girl was killed in the Madyan town of Swat district when a wall fell on her. Besides, two people — a man in Islamabad and a 13-year-old girl in Abbottabad — lost their lives due to sudden cardiac arrest after the quake. There were also reports of several injuries.

Around 150 people were inj­u­red in Swat, where hospitals had declared a state of emergency, police officer Shafiullah Ganda­pur told Reuters. Shafiullah Rah­imi, a spokesperson for Afghan­istan’s disaster mitigation ministry, said two people had been killed in Laghman province.

The earthquake also jolted different cities in Punjab, though no loss of life was immediately reported. Shocks were felt in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Muzaffargarh, Sahiwal, Okara and other cities.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was centred near Jurm town in north-eastern Afghanis-tan in the Hindukush region and had a depth of 187 kilometres.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department said the quake was a magnitude 6.8, whereas the USGS put the magnitude at 6.5.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, several injuries were reported besides the girl’s death in Madyan town.

Five people — including Qaiser Khan, 65, his wife and three children — were injured after the roof of their house collapsed due to the earthquake in Sheikh Jana village of Swabi district, Rescue 1122 officials said. The injured were shifted to the Razaar tehsil headquarters hospital.

According to the KP’s central police office, one person was wounded in Mardan in the limits of Saddar police station, and two people were killed in Shamozai.

On the other hand, the provincial disaster management authority said a landslide near the Karanduke bridge in the Kalam area of Swat blocked the main Bahrain-Kalam Road. KP health department also notified a medical emergency in all hospitals of the province and directed its staff to stay alert.

KKH blocked

The earthquake also jolted the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), where the resultant landslides created fear. However, no loss of life was immediately reported.

Rescue 1122 said landslides damaged a cattle farm in Yasin Ghizer, resulting in the death of livestock.

Besides, sources said landslides have blocked the Karakoram Highway in the Harban area of Kohistan near the border with GB’s Diamer district, stranding several people on both sides.

Videos from Islamabad show panic-stricken people, especially those living in high-rises, rushing out of their homes while reciting Kalma Tayyaba.

Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel directed officials to put Poly Clinic and Pims hospitals on high alert. He asked the hospitals’ administration to prepare themselves to deal with any emergency.

According to initial reports, cracks appeared in the Al-Janaat Mall in Rawalpindi and buildings in Islamabad’s Sector E-11.

A spokesperson for the Punjab Emergency Services said Rescue 1122 officials were launching search and sweep operations across the province. He said they did not receive any call about the damages caused by the earthquake and the provincial monitoring cell was working to handle the situation.

A 6.5 quake can cause severe damage. However, two different earthquakes of the same magnitude can result in vastly different damage and deaths depending on the depth.

Tuesday’s earthquake was among the intermediate ones, which are between 70km and 300km in depth. Shallow quakes are at depths of less than 70km and are the ones that have broader damage.

Reuters adds: Shafiullah Rahimi, a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s disaster mitigation ministry, said two people had been killed in eastern Laghman province.

Authorities and aid workers said very strong shaking was felt in Badakhshan and across other northern areas. A spokesperson for Red Cross said they had no immediate reports of damages from Badakhshan’s capital but were making checks on other areas.

Mahzudeen Ahmadi, the head of Badakhshan’s information department, told Reuters they were also checking the province for any casualties but had no reports yet.

“We felt a strong earthquake. According to primary information, the main place (affected) was Yamgan District,” he said.

Some of the mountainous Badakhshan’s remote villages can be difficult to reach and do not have access to phones or the internet.

In Faizabad, 29-year-old Ashraf Nael said he was at home on Tuesday evening when the windows of his family home began rattling strongly for about a minute. “My brothers and sisters all ran outside … we live in a concrete house, those houses which are made from mud might have been damaged,” he said.

Muqaddam Khan in Swabi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2023

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