Witnesses report Mirpur in Pakistan-administered Kashmir worst-hit by shallow quake
The toll from a shallow earthquake that rattled eastern Pakistan has risen to at least 19 dead and more than 300 wounded, a senior police officer said, after the tremor tore car-sized cracks into roads.
“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-administered Kashmir near the epicenter of the quake—in televised comments.
The strong earthquake, which struck on Tuesday afternoon, forced residents into the street in several cities, with witnesses also claiming a building collapsed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
The epicenter of the shallow 5.8-magnitude was near the city of Mirpur, roughly 22 kilometers north of Jhelum in Punjab province, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Mirpur, a city known for its palatial houses, has strong ties to Britain and the majority of its 450,000 residents carry both British and Pakistani passports.
“The quake was 10 kilometers deep and was felt in most of Punjab province, some parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The worst hit was Mirpur, Azad Kashmir,” said Pakistan’s chief meteorologist Muhammad Riaz.
Pakistan’s military deployed “aviation and medical support” teams along with troops to affected areas in Kashmir, according to its spokesman.
Earlier, the prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir had said at least 100 people were injured and being treated in a Mirpur hospital, adding that there were no reports of fatalities and relief efforts were ongoing. However, others gave conflicting tolls. “More than 70 people have been wounded and at least three killed in the earthquake,” said Saeedur Rehman Qureshi, an official from the State Disaster Management Authority. Naeem Chughtai, a Mirpur resident living near the city’s main hospital, said that at least one 10-year-old girl had been killed. He also said the area’s infrastructure—including roads, mobile phone towers, and electricity poles—had been badly damaged by the quake.
Witnesses Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir, who spoke to AFP by telephone from Mirpur, said the quake had caused a building to collapse and inflicted heavy damage on at least one road.
Local media aired images showing a damaged major road where multiple vehicles could be seen trapped in large cracks. Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, with the Press Trust of India reporting that panicked people rushed out of their homes and offices in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.
“The earthquake was felt but there are no reports of any damage,” Amir Ali from the disaster management department in India-held Kashmir told AFP.
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 Oct. 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.