–Police official says there’s a lot of damage to infrastructure in Mirpur; roads sunk down
–PM expresses grief over loss of lives, directs NDMA to step up relief activities; Gen Bajwa sends troops to help civil administration
ISLAMABAD: An earthquake of 5.8 magnitude jolted several parts of the country, including Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), on Tuesday, resulting in the death of at least 23 individuals and injuries to hundreds.
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed grief over the losses whereas AJK prime minister cut short his Lahore visit and rushed back home after the earthquake wreaked havoc in Kashmir.
According to US Geological Survey, the quake hit 22 kilometres (14 miles) north of the city of Jhelum along the boundary separating the agricultural heartland of Punjab and Kashmir.
Pakistan Meteorological Department’s earthquake centre said the earthquake measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and its depth was at 10 kilometres.
Pakistan’s chief meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told AFP that “the worst hit” was Mirpur in AJK.
Local disaster management officials told Al Jazeera they were still gathering reports from the site of the earthquake but had received word of damage to infrastructure.
“We have reports of cracks in the roads there,” said disaster management official Ammar Raza Shaikh.
Tahir Mahmood, a senior police official in Rawalakot, about 80km (50 miles) from Mirpur, said that “there is a lot of damage to infrastructure [in Mirpur].” He added, “No casualties as yet. Roads seem to have developed cracks and sunk down. Lots of vehicles were thrown around.”
AJK Deputy Commissioner Raja Qaiser said that emergency has been imposed in hospitals. He further said that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) have been directed to carry out rescue operations and gather data on the damage done.
“Rescue teams have reached the affected area, adding that the situation is not the same as in 2005,” he added.
Meanwhile, the military troops have also been despatched to the area to help the civilian administration in relief activities.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major Asif Ghafoor said that upon the instructions of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, an “immediate rescue operation” had been launched “in aid of civil administration”.
“Army troops with aviation and medical support teams dispatched,” the military spokesperson tweeted.
Though Mirpur was the worst-affected city, several cities of Punjab, including Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Taxila, Wah Cantt, Sialkot, Sargodha, Jhang, Khoshab, Raiwind, Attock, Gojar Khan and Gujrat, were hit by the earthquake, with people, panicking, rushing out of their houses and offices.
Tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital of New Delhi (more than 800km (500 miles) away.
Indian news agency the Press Trust of India reported that people rushed from their homes and offices in panic in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, who was in Lahore since Monday to attend Kashmir-related events, cut short his visit and rushed to Mirpur “to supervise rescue, relief and rehabilitation services”, his office said in a statement.
“The prime minister has directed all government departments to leave no stone unturned in helping out victims of this […] natural disaster,” the statement added.
PM TELLS NDMA TO SPEED UP RELIEF ACTIVITIES:
Prime Minister Imran, who is currently in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, “expressed his profound sorrow over the damage and loss of precious lives” caused by the earthquake, a statement issued by his office said.
The premier has instructed the relevant departments to provide all possible assistance for relief in the disaster-struck areas.
The National Disaster Management Authority has also been instructed to speed up its relief operations in all areas hit by the earthquake.
The NDMA warned that aftershocks could be expected within the next 24 hours in the earthquake-hit areas.
In a statement, the authority said that all the protective measures should be taken to lessen the impact. It further urged the public to share any losses or damage to the authority.
Meanwhile, according to Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the turbines at the Mangla Dam powerhouse were being restarted after they were shut down earlier due to an earthquake-related safety scare.
The Mangla Dam and its powerhouse were safe and the turbines at the reservoir’s powerhouse had been shut down as part of the precautions.
In October 2015, a magnitude 7.5-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 magnitude-7.6 quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in AJK.