Saturday, October 8, 2005
The strongest earthquake (7.6) that South Asia experienced in the last century caused widespread damage across Pakistan, North India, and Afghanistan this morning. Strongest hit was apparently Kashmir. Tens of thousands of people are feared dead. The epicenter was close to Muzaffarabad, 138 km to the north of Islamabad, and also caused severe damage from both shaking and from landslides to Balakot, Garhi Habibullah and one village in Rawalakot.
Reports on fatalities are conflicting, but even the most conservative estimates put the toll as high as 20,000. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told the BBC he knew of 20,000 people that were killed but added: “I wouldn’t be able to make an accurate assessment for days.” He also asked for international help and specifically requested large cargo helicopters to supply remote areas. The US has come forward to assist by providing eight military helicopters. The communications minister for the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, Tariq Mahmmod, said on Sunday, that “more than 30,000” died in his region alone. Aside from Kashmir most of the deaths occurred in the North-West Province of Pakistan and other northern areas. The estimated death toll has now reached 35,000.
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, a spokesman for Musharraf, said the scale of the devastation was the biggest Pakistan has ever seen. As emergency workers searched for trapped people and helped the injured, an international relief and recovery effort geared up.
A U.N. disaster relief team was due in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on Sunday. Britain, Germany, and the United States were among countries offering aid. India, Pakistan’s neighbour and longtime rival, also offered aid (details). A British team from the International Rescue Corps was assisting in the operation at Marghalla Towers on Sunday, equipped with heat-seeking detectors, portable oxygen bags, and advanced slab and metal cutters. According to Pakistan Television this meant that “rescue efforts are picking up pace, and lot of time is being saved.”
The tremors began at 8:50 am (03:50 GMT), and continued for two minutes, followed by several aftershocks over a period of ten minutes. Initial reports said that they were felt in Delhi, Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Kabul, Punjab, Jammu, Kashmir, and other areas. A magnitude 6.3 aftershock occurred seven hours later just to the northwest.
The earthquake caused several apartment buildings in Islamabad to collapse, trapping hundreds of people.
250 children were killed in Gari Habi Ullaha between Mansehra and Muzaffarabad when their school collapsed.
The Pakistani Interior Ministry reports that several villages were “wiped out.” Pakistan’s army has been directed to extend all out help to the civil population in the quake-hit areas. All civil and military hospitals have been directed to deal with the situation on an emergency basis. The President and the Prime Minister have appealed to the nation to stay calm in the face of the calamity, and asked the authorities concerned to carry out an immediate assessment of the extent of the damage.
The Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz talked by telephone with authorities in four provinces and Azad Kashmir. He directed them to utilize all machinery, and make all possible efforts to help the victims. He said that the whole federal administration, civil and military authorities had been alerted and relief goods had been provided to them for the victims of the quake.
Most of the roads are closed in the Northern Sector near the earthquake, and some have been completely washed out, so the Pakistani army is flying supplies in by helicopter. Telephone and electricity connections have been cut to towns such as Muzaffarabad, making logistical operations much more complex. The heavy rains have also contributed to the suffering of the many thousands who are now homeless.
Across the line of control in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, officials said Saturday that more than 465 people, at least 34 of them soldiers, were killed in the quake.
Worst hit in India was the town of Uri, close to the border with Pakistan, where four in five of the town’s buildings were leveled, and at least 120 people lost their lives. Officials in India have been criticised for the slow pace and lack of organisation in the relief effort.
- Magnitude: 7.6
- Region: North India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
- Time: (UTC) Sat Oct 8 03:50:38 2005 (08:50:38 local time)
- Epicentre: 80km (50 miles) north-east of Islamabad, Pakistan