Islamabad: The toll from a shallow earthquake that rattled eastern Pakistan has risen to at least 22 dead and more than 700 wounded, officials said, after the tremor tore car-sized cracks into roads.
Mushtaf Minhas, information minister in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said 22 people, including women and children, were killed in the quake, mostly due to collapsing roofs and walls.
“We are supplying tents, food and other essential items to earthquake-affected people. We are facing a tragedy but we will try our best to ensure the rehabilitation of affected people as soon as possible,” he told The Associated Press.
Mahboob Ahmed, a doctor at a village hospital near Mirpur, said they treated 700 people and most of them were later discharged or referred to the district’s main hospital, where better health facilities were available.
Raja Qaiser, a deputy commissioner, said rescuers were still transporting victims to hospitals in Mirpur. An emergency was declared in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Earlier reports had put the toll at 19 dead.
“At least 19 people have been killed and more than 300 wounded,” said Sardar Gulfaraz, deputy inspector general of police in Mirpur – a city in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir near the epicentre of the quake – had said in televised comments.
The quake struck 14 miles (23 km) north of Jhelum, Pakistan, at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported.
“The (most) damage is in areas between Jhelum and Mirpur,” said the chief of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal. “So far we have reports of the death of a girl child and injuries to nearly 50 people.” Jhelum is located in northeastern Pakistan roughly 120 km southeast of Islamabad. Mirpur is on Pakistan’s side of the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The District Deputy Commissioner for the town of Mirpur, Raja Qaisar, confirmed a single fatality to television channel Geo TV.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistan Armed Forces, tweeted that army troops with aviation and medical support teams were dispatched.
Army troops moved
Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has directed army troops to participate in rescue mission in the affected areas, according to DG Inter-Services Public Relations Maj General Asif Ghafoor.
In his tweet, DG ISPR said that the army chief directed troops to extend full cooperation to the civil administration.
The DG ISPR said that Pakistan army’s aviation and medical teams have been dispatched to earthquake-hit areas.
Witnesses, Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir, told AFP at least 50 people were injured by the quake that caused a building to collapse in Pakistani Kashmir’s Mirpur and inflicted heavy damage at least one road.
Tremors felt in New Delhi
Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, while the Press Trust of India reported that people rushed out of their homes and offices in panic in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.
Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.
In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people, flattening buildings in rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.
The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.