ISLAMABAD: At least 22 people have been killed and more than 300 suffered various injuries after a shallow earthquake rattled northeastern Pakistan, tearing car-sized cracks into roads and heavily damaging infrastructure.
The quake sent people in Lahore and Islamabad running into the streets. With rescue operations expected to continue overnight, residents in the worst-hit areas described their horror as walls collapsed and houses fell.
The epicenter of the 5.2-magnitude quake was near the Kashmiri city of Mirpur, roughly 20 kilometers north of Jhelum in agricultural Punjab province, according to the United States Geological Survey.
On one of the district’s two main roads, Agence France-Presse reporters could see cracks at least four feet (1.2 metres) deep, some filling with water from a nearby canal. Television images showed cars wedged in to some cracks, while a bus and a truck lay by the side of the road.
In the village of Sahankikri, on the outskirts of Mirpur, residents said almost all the 400 houses were damaged.
“We are shelterless now,” said one, Shamraiz Akhtar.
“I will never forget the horrible sound” of the quake, another resident, Muhammad Ramzan, told Agence France-Presse. “It looked like the entire village tossed and turned and spun around.”
“We… were sitting having a gossip when suddenly the earthquake shook us all. Fortunately the wall collapsed the other way, burying one of our buffalo,” 23-year-old student Nabeel Hussain said.
Piles of rubble could be seen as darkness fell on the village, with the sound of women wailing in mourning. Others spoke only in whispers, fearful of aftershocks.
“At least 19 people have been killed and more than 300 wounded,” Sardar Gulfaraz, deputy inspector general of police in Mirpur, said in televised comments.
A second Kashmiri official, Minister for Rehabilitation Ahmed Raza Qadri, put the death toll at 20.
But the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority gave a lower toll at a press conference in Islamabad.
“I can confirm 10 deaths and the number of wounded is 100,” its chairman Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal said, adding that he had received reports of a higher toll.