PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were most seriously affected as a powerful earthquake rocked Pakistan and the region on Monday causing around 360 deaths and injuries to at least 1,800 people.
Thousands of houses were damaged across the country as a result of the quake. The tremors were also felt in India, the Middle East, the Central Asian States and the entire region.
The death toll could rise as reports of losses kept trickling in from remote areas, mostly from the mountainous Malakand Division where the earthquake was the most severe.
There were conflicting reports about the intensity of the earthquake. The local Meteorological Centre said it measured 8.1 on the open-ended Richter scale, making it the most powerful earthquake in Pakistan’s history. However, the Seismological Centre in the US calculated that the earthquake measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.
The last devastating earthquake had hit Pakistan on October 8, 2005 and left a trail of death and destruction, primarily in Azad Kashmir and Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The 7.6 quake had killed more than 73,000 people and dislocated over 3.5 million. Ten years later, the 8.1 earthquake that struck Pakistan on Monday afternoon at 2:09 pm caused much less human loss even though its magnitude was greater.
Earlier, official sources put the death toll at 145 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 106 being reported from the Malakand Division, which has seven districts including Chitral, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Swat, Shangla, Buner and Malakand district. More than 1,800 were reportedly injured in the province.
However, the figures kept rising and subsequently the death toll was revised upwards. Commissioner Malakand Division Captain (retd) Usman Gul was later quoted as saying that 137 persons were killed in Malakand and more than 800 were injured. He said 831 houses were damaged by the impact of the tremors.
Shangla was the most seriously affected district in the Malakand Division with a death toll of 39 so far.
Most of the victims were from poor families living in small and dilapidated houses and buildings. Old mud houses caved in when the earthquake struck. Broken walls or collapsed roofs were reported from numerous villages in most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A large number of casualties were also reported from Bajaur, Mohmand and other tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Deaths were also reported from Khyber, Orakzai, North Waziristan and other tribal regions.
The earthquake also affected parts of Afghanistan, particularly northern Afghanistan, as the toll rose there steadily. The tremors were also felt in the capital Kabul but it caused most of damage in Nangarhar, Takhar and Badakhshan, which was close to the epicentre of the quake.
Panicked people came out of their houses, offices, markets, schools and other buildings as the powerful tremors continued for almost a minute. The aftershocks unnerved the people as they feared the buildings would collapse at any moment.
Purdah-observing women also came out of their homes and rushed on to the streets and open spaces to save their lives. They were crying and reciting verses from the Holy Quran and seeking mercy from the Almighty Allah.
Most buildings were vacated immediately and people were seen standing on roads, streets and in lawns for an unusually long time.
The death toll from the earthquake nearly doubled to 63 in Afghanistan, after officials confirmed 30 fatalities in the eastern province of Kunar.
“The quake has caused a lot of devastation in this province. Initial information shows 30 people have been killed and more than 70 injured. Some 1,500 homes have also been destroyed,” said Kunar Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai.
The epicentre of the earthquake was stated to be Wakhan in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province close to the border with China and Pakistan.
Most of the casualties and property losses were reported from Chitral, Shangla, Swat, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Torghar and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“As many as 22 people have been confirmed dead so far in roof collapse incidents in Chitral, 24 in Shangla, 20 in Lower Dir, 14 in Upper Dir, 21 in Swat and eight in Buner district,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Malakand Range Azad Khan told The News. The casualties in Shangla later rose to 39.
The official added that cops at all the police stations had been directed to reach the people to provide them relief.
“Besides, more than 350 people have reportedly been injured in the earthquake. The infrastructural damage is high,” added Azad Khan.
According to the official, those wounded included over 90 in Chitral, 113 in Lower Dir, 49 in Swat, 41 in Upper Dir, 45 in Buner and 31 in Shangla. All these figures were later revised upwards.
“Seventeen casualties have been reported from the Hazara Division, with Torghar Districtbeen reported from Hazara division, with Torghar district suffering the most, with deaths tally put at 19. As many as 150 people were wounded in Hazara,” the DIG Hazara Akhtar Hayat Gandapur told The News.
The official added that a large number of houses and other buildings were damaged in all the districts, particularly in Torghar, which was earlier known as Kala Dhaka. The number of destroyed houses stood at 150.
Emergency was declared at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif expressed profound grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives and properties in the earthquake.
President commiserated with the bereaved families and prayed for the salvation of departed souls. He directed to provide the best medical treatment to those injured in the earthquake in different parts of the country particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also directed the departments concerned to undertake immediate measures for rescue and rehabilitation of affected people and for making damage assessment in the wake of earthquake particularly in far flung areas of the country.
PM, who was on foreign tour expressed solidarity with affected people and directed the authorities concerned to leave no stone unturned to help earthquake victims. He also cancelled his tour and is reaching Islamabad tonight.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan, Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, provincial assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and others visited hospitals in Peshawar to enquire after the injured.
Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif wasted no time to reach Peshawar. He was given briefing by the Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Hidayatur Rehman about the rescue and relief activities in the affected areas.
KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak said the province had enough resources to cope with the situation. He directed the commissioners and deputy commissioners to set up control rooms and helplines at their offices and provide instant relief to the victims. Hospitals were directed to declare emergency to provide timely treatment to the injured.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan also rushed to the provincial capital to supervise the rescue and relief operations in the province.
Army, police and administration officials all over the province were directed to reach the affected areas to help the victims.
Senior Minister for Health Shahram Tarakai, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Inayatullah Khan and leaders of almost all the major political parties including the ANP also paid visits to the hospitals to enquire after the injured in the earthquake related incidents.
A spokesperson for LRH Jamil Shah confirmed the death of two people, Mukhtiara Bibi from Yakatoot and Umar from Sattar Shah Colony. Some officials, however, put the number of casualties in Peshawar at three. Subsequent reports mentioned even higher figures.
“As many as 162 are being treated at various wards and departments of the hospital,” Jamil Shah added. The wounded included many women and children who could not run out of homes for safety.
Four people were also killed in different incidents in Mardan, four in Charsadda, two in Nowshera, two in Swabi and one each in Malakand district and Kohistan, according to the statistics of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
It had compiled the list of over 1,005 injured from all over KP. However, the figures were set to rise as reports from remote areas were yet to be received.
DIG Malaland Azad Khan said 127 people were killed and 804 injured in Malakand alone. According to him, the number of dead in Shangla was 36, Chitral 23, Lower Dir 21, Swat 24, Upper Dir 15 and Buner 8.
“This was the worst earthquake I have witnessed in my life. I first remained inside the room but then had to run for life after people started crying as the jolts continued for long,” said Kashif Khan belonging to Peshawar district.
He added that women living in small houses rushed out of their homes, a scene he had never witnessed in his village. People remained on roads, open spaces and lawns and were hesitant to return to the buildings after the scary tremors.
Many were seen looking for cracks in their houses after the earthquake.
Ambulances of the Rescue 1122, the Edhi Foundation and other organisations were seen rushing to various parts of Peshawar and other districts after receiving calls for help. People began the rescue work on their own by pulling out the wounded from the rubble.
The southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suffered less damage.
According to Kohat District Police Officer Sohaib Ashraf, 14 people were wounded in various parts of the district in the earthquake.
A couple of roads were blocked by landslides in some mountainous areas of the province.
Emergency was declared in all the hospitals of the Peshawar valley, Malakand and Hazara divisions after the disastrous earthquake.
A part of the Mughal-era Balahisar Fort in Peshawar which serves as the headquarters of the Frontier Corps was also damaged in the earthquake. A portion of one of the main walls of the citadel overlooking the G T Road collapsed and was visible from afar. However, no loss of life was reported when the fort’s wall collapsed.
There were reports that the minarets of the historic Mahabat Khan mosque in the city also suffered damage.
Meanwhile, two persons were killed and 19 others injured in different areas of Rawalpindi in earthquake while 27 people were reported wounded and shifted to hospitals of federal capital, police and Rescue-1122 sources said.
No building collapse incident was reported in both the cities however hundreds of building structures were damaged badly.
In Rawalpindi an elderly woman was killed and 17 people sustained injuries in different incidents following the earthquake.
According to the Rescue-1122, an aged woman in Sadiqabad area died as she went in deep shock due to the severe intensity of earthquake. She was stated to be shocked and removed to Benazir Bhutto Hospital, where she was proclaimed dead.
In another incident, seven people sustained injuries when the wall of a building in Prinda Market on College Road collapsed. They all were immediately rescued to District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) by the Rescue-1122.
A youth, in an effort to jump from the roof top of his home got slipped and suffered injuries. He was shifted to DHQ.
Three other injured were hospitalised at DHQ while six other admitted to Holy Family Hospital.
The earthquake also jolted Punjab capital and its surroundings. Tremors were felt for a minute while buildings also trembled. The people rushed out of buildings by reciting religious invocations. Other cities of Punjab including Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Taxila, Attock, Mianwali, Talagang, Khushab, Layyah, Bhakkar, Multan, Vehari, Sahiwal, Okara, DG Khan, Fisailabad, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang and others were also jolted by the quake.
The earthquake jolted Azad Jammu and Kashmir spreading a wave of severe panic for the moments.
The people rushed out of their houses to open places in all AJK districts including Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bhimbher, Kotli, Rawalakot, Bagh, Palandri when the earthquake hit the region at 2.09pm.
No loss of life or property has been reported so far from any part of the quake-hit AJK zone.
Gilgit-Baltistan also received tremors due to the earthquake that jolted entire country. However, no loss of life and property was reported till the filing of this report.
The earthquake also jolted Balochistan including provincial capital city, no casualty was reported.
The jolts were felt in provincial capital city, Khuzdar, Kalat, Mastung, Chaman, Sibbi, Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, and other parts of Balochistan.
The people in fear and panic came out of their homes and buildings reciting Quranic verses and Kalima-e-Tayyaba.
Meanwhile, Karachi also received jolts from aftershocks that were recorded as 5.6 on Richter scale.
According to Meteorology Department, the meteorology office in Karachi also received aftershocks and the office furniture had also jolted from the aftershocks.
The aftershocks created a new wave of concerns among those citizens who live in extremely dilapidated buildings that are in particular located in city’s south and west parts especially the old city areas including Kharadar, Mithadar, Burns Road, Old Numaish, Guru Mandir, Keamari, Lyari, Soldier Bazaar, Saddar and even in Landhi and Korangi.
The civil administration has as usual issued warning to the dwellers of those extremely dilapidated buildings to shift to safer locations so as to stay safe from any untoward situation from the aftershocks.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was ready to provide assistance to Kabul and Islamabad following a powerful earthquake.
Former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed profound grief and shock over the deaths and damages caused by a massive earthquake in different parts of the country.
In a message they said that the massive earthquake, as all natural disasters in the past, had brought home the point yet again that no matter what progress mankind might achieve he is helpless before forces of nature.
While praying for those who lost their lives in the earthquake, PPP leaders offered his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved and grief stricken families.
Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Senator Sirajul Haq expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life and property all over the country due to severe earthquake.
The Pakistani Red Crescent has deployed Emergency Response Teams to earthquake-affected areas and shifted dozens of people to hospitals.
According to a press release, the PRC KP Branch dispatched emergency teams with ambulances to Faqirabad and Sarozai payman viallge and shifted over 18 injured to Lady Reading Hospital.