26 dead, 300 injured as quake jolts Pakistan

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5.8 magnitude quake rocks AJK, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Mirpur worst-hit; Armymen reach affected areas on COAS orders; Aftershocks expected; Emergency imposed in hospitals; houses destroyed, roads cracked open due to intensity of quake; Damage assessment completed; Upper Jhelum Canal’s three bridges damaged; Aviation and medical teams reached AJK and other areas; Will appeal for help to nation if needed: Chairman NDMA

Sarwar Awan

Islamabad

Twenty-six people were killed and more than 300 were injured after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday. The worst hit was Mirpur in Azad Kashmir.
The death of 26 people was confirmed with more than 300 injured following the quake. Tremors were felt in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, Jhelum, Charsadda, Swat, Khyber Agency, Abbottabad, Bajaur, Nowshera, Mansehra, Battagram, Torghar and Kohistan, Sheikhupura, Hafizabad, Chiniot, Jalalpur, Bajaur, Mirpur, Zafarwal, Skardu, Manga Mandi, Kohat, Kamoke, Kasur, Faisalabad, Daska, Gujrat, Sialkot, Abbottabad, Chitral, Malakand, Multan, Shangla, Okara, Attock, Jhang and adjoining areas.
AJK Deputy Commissioner said that emergency was imposed in the hospitals. The situation is not the same as it was in 2005, he revealed further adding that rescue teams have reached the affected areas.
Reports revealed that the earthquake has led to several houses and buildings in Mirpur getting damaged with multiple cars also falling into deep cracks on the streets and roads that emerged after the jolts.
Occurring just after 4pm, the shallow quake had hit 22.3 kilometres north of Jhelum, along the boundary separating the agricultural heartland of Punjab and Azad Kashmir, according to the US Geological Survey. “The quake was 10 kilometres deep and was felt in most of Punjab province and some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The worst hit was Mirpur, Azad Kashmir,” chief meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told media.
Two bridges on the Upper Jhelum Canal were also damaged. Further Upper Jhelum Canal water entered some villages after two breaches occurred in the canal.
Among the people being treated for their wounds, at least 35 have sustained critical injuries. State of emergency had been declared in state-run and private hospitals in Mirpur.
Most of the injured were from the outskirts of Mirpur, such as Afzalpur, Jatlan and New City. He revealed that pharmacies in Mirpur are offering free medicines to the victims, in a gesture of humanity.
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.
Several houses, shops and buildings collapsed in different parts of Azad Kashmir, whereas, images obtained from the affected areas show massive cracks on roads. Rescue teams rushed to the spot and emergency was declared at all the hospitals. Meanwhile, mobile service has also been affected in the area.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in New York to attend the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, has expressed grief over the loss of lives and properties.
According to Director General Rescue Punjab Dr Rizwan Naseer, rescue teams were sent from Rawalpindi, Jhelum and Gujrat to Mirpur. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar imposed emergency in Jhelum, directing the authorities concerned to stay alert to cope with the situation. In a tweet, he said district commissioner had been directed to visit and dispatch the medical aid to the affected areas.
The turbines at the Mangla Dam powerhouse were restarted, sources at the Water and Power Development Authority said after they were shut down earlier due to an earthquake-related safety scare. The Mangla Dam and its powerhouse were safe, the sources said, adding that the turbines at the reservoir’s powerhouse had been shut down as part of the precautions. A team of experts has reached the Mangla Dam to conduct a detailed damage assessment and will prepare a report. They have, in the meanwhile, declared the site as safe and have reported no damage. According to the spokesperson, the earthquake caused the turbine water to become polluted which is why it was turned off.
The Pakistan Army’s aviation helicopters completed aerial survey, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a press release issued late Tuesday, after Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa directed troops to participate in rescue activities. The Army’s helicopters “have completed aerial survey for damage assessment in Mirpur, Jarikas and Jatlan areas”, the statement read. “Army teams have also reached earthquake hit areas of Mirpur, Jatlan and Jarikas.”
According to Major General Asif Ghafoor, the director-general of the ISPR, the army chief had directed army personnel to completely cooperate with the civil administration of AJK.
The DG ISPR said that Pakistan army’s aviation and medical teams have been dispatched to AJK and other earthquake-hit areas.
Meanwhile, National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt-Gen Mohammad Afzal, addressing a press conference, said that for a day or two, after the earthquake, focus of the departments concerned will be on rescue activities.
The NDMA chairman said that an appeal for help will be made to the nation if needed in wake of the situation created by the earthquake. The chairman confirmed 10 deaths and 100 critically injured by earthquake. The chairman said that the Mangla Dam is safe and keeping in mind safety measures the power turbines were shut. The NDMA chairman went on to say that torrential rains were also expected in the next few days, adding that rations, essential items and medicines will be delivered to the affected areas.
“Our whole concentration right now is to accelerate the rescue operation,” he told a private TV channel. “There are people who are stuck there and who need immediate help. We are putting in all our resources to get people the best of our help.”
“The (most) damage is in areas between Jhelum and Mirpur,” said the chief of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, Lt General Mohammad Afzal. “Approximately 100 are injured. Some reports say 300 are injured. Some of the injured only suffered minor injuries, so if I were to count those with serious injuries, the figure is around 100,” he added.