Over 130 dead in Pakistan quake, army in rescue mode

Islamabad, Oct 26 (IANS) The strongest earthquake in 10 years rocked Pakistan on Monday leaving over 130 people dead and hundreds injured and causing widespread damage, stretching from the areas near Afghanistan to Punjab and Kashmir regions bordering India.

The 7.5 intensity quake with its epicentre in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains jolted most northern parts of Pakistan including major cities like Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Quetta and Multan at 2.09 p.m., officials said.

Monday’s was the most serious quake since the October 8, 2005 temblor measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated Kashmir and Northern Areas, leaving more than 80,000 dead.

The Pakistan Army began rescue operations within hours.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan bore the brunt, accounting for over 120 fatalities, Pakistani officials and media said.

At least 18 people were killed in Peshawar city, according to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani, while over 100 injured were warded in the Lady Reading Hospital.

Elsewhere in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa, seven people were killed in Mansehra, two in Charsadda, 18 in Shangla and 20 in Chitral, which fell closest to the quake’s epicentre. Fourteen people, including four children, were killed in the Bajaur tribal region near the Afghanistan border after buildings collapsed. Two deaths took place in the Khyber and Mohmand agencies each.

Eight people were killed in Swat Valley, while nearly 200 injured were brought to Swat’s Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital.

Deaths were also reported in Upper and Lower Dir (7 and 9 respectively), Buner (5) and Mardan (2). Details of the other deaths were not clear.

In Punjab, a child was killed in Kallar Kahar area of Chakwal district, one woman was killed in Sargodha and 10 others injured in a wall collapse and one in Kasur district when a house roof came crashing down.

One death was reported from Mirpur in Pakistani Kashmir and three in Gilgit-Baltistan, where the tremors also caused a massive landslide.

Officials said the toll was feared to rise further as communication was cut off with several remote and mountainous areas.

Communications services were also disrupted in Islamabad and Peshawar where frightened people rushed out of their houses and offices. According to officials, many buildings, roads and other structures were damaged.

Dunya News TV reported that a part of the historic Bala Hissar fort in Peshawar was damaged. A minaret of the 17th-century Mahabat Khan Mosque in the city also collapsed.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa said troops had been directed “to carry out immediate rescue work in affected areas without waiting for formal orders”. Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif flew to Peshawar to oversee rescue operations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Army teams fanned out for a quick assessment of earthquake damages across the country, Gen. Bajwa said.

All command military hospitals were on high alert. Helicopters were on standby.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed all federal, civil, military and provincial agencies to declare an immediate alert and mobilise all resources to help the quake victims.

President Mamnoon Hussain expressed grief over the loss of lives. So did celebrities who took to social media to express their anguish.

Singer Ali Zafar was overcome by its intensity. “That’s the most … I’ve ever felt an earthquake,” he tweeted. Meesha Shafi posted: “WOAH! HUGE earthquake! #Lahore.”

Singer and activist Hadiqa Kiyani posted on Instagram: “Praying for everyone’s safety.”

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