Islamabad: A powerful 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and several cities in the north-eastern parts of the country on Tuesday, killing at least 26 people and wounding over 300 others.
According to US Geological Survey, the epicentre of the quake was near New Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which was severely affected by the quake. The depth of the quake, which occurred at 4.02 pm (local time), was at 10 kilometres. According to the Home Department, 26 people were killed and over 300 injured in Mirpur and surrounding areas due to the powerful quake.
Pakistan Meteorological Department's earthquake centre said the 5.8-magnitude earthquake was located near the mountainous city of Jehlum in Punjab province. However, Minister for Science Fawad Chaudhry said that the intensity of the quake was 7.1. Some houses collapsed in Mirpur following the earthquake, Deputy Commissioner Raja Qaiser said. Parts of a mosque also collapsed in the area. Emergency has been declared in hospitals across PoK.
TV channels showed the footage of heavily damaged roads in Mirpur, with many vehicles overturned. Several cars fell into the deep cracks on the roads. The building of the state-run Broadcasting House in Mirpur was badly damaged. The quake was powerful and created panic as people ran out of building, eyewitnesses said. Several cities including Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Skardu, Kohat, Charsadda, Kasur, Faisalabad, Gujrat, Sialkot, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Chitral, Malakand, Multan, Shangla, Okara, Nowshera, Attock and Jhang felt the tremor.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, expressed grief over the loss of human life. He directed all the concerned departments to provide immediate assistance to the quake-hit areas. President Arif Alvi also expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives. Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa directed "immediate rescue operation in aid of civil administration" for victims of earthquake in PoK. Army troops with aviation and medical support teams have been dispatched, the media wing of the army tweeted.
"Pakistan Army aviation helicopters have completed aerial survey for damage assessment in Mirpur, Jarikas and Jatlan areas. Army teams have reached earthquake-hit areas of Mirpur, Jatlan and Jarikas. Rescue efforts initiated," state-run PTV tweeted. Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said that most of the damage was done in Mirpur and Jhelum. He said all departments, including NDMA, Pakistan Army, and State Disaster Management have started rescue operation in quake-affected areas.
Afzal said Mangla to Jatalan road and three bridges were damaged in the quake. "We have enough resources to cope with the disaster," he said. He said the exact magnitude of disaster will be known by Wednesday. Pakistan's major water reservoir Mangla Dam located near Mirpur remained safe, officials said. Mangla dam power house has been closed, cutting off 900 MW power supply to the national grid, they said.
However, Upper Jhelum canal was damaged and water inundated various villages. The breach in the Upper Jhelum Canal was fixed due to timely intervention of officials, PoK Information Minister Mushtaq Minhas said. In 2005, a powerful quake killed nearly 90,000 people in PoK and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
By Sajjad Hussain/PTI