Massive 6.8 earthquake kills 9 in KP; Islamabad buildings evacuated

Tremors were felt by some 285 million people in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries

M. Waqar Bhatti
Web Desk
People come out of a restaurant after a tremor was felt in Lahore, Pakistan March 21, 2023. — Reuters
People come out of a restaurant after a tremor was felt in Lahore, Pakistan March 21, 2023. — Reuters

  • Several people sustained injuries, succumbed to death.
  • Tremors felt in Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta and other areas.
  • Moderate earthquake followed by 3.7 magnitude aftershocks.

An earthquake of 6.8 magnitudes shook parts of Pakistan on Tuesday, killing nine people, including two women, and injuring over 160 others as well as causing many buildings to collapse, authorities said.

The deceased in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa include five men, two women and as many children, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority KP. 

At least 44 people were injured in various accidents that took place as a result of the earthquake, stated the KP PDMA report. However, Geo News reported that over 160 are injured. 

The report indicates that at least 19 houses across the province have been partially damaged. 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Secretary Relief, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Department Abdul Basit and DG PDMA Sharif Hussain visited the Emergency Operation Centre. Rescue 1122 provided timely medical care to the injured and transported them to nearby hospitals, said the secretary relief.

The secretary also directed the district administration, Rescue and Civil Defence to remain alert for the relief and rescue operation. The secretary further said the PDMA is in constant touch with the district administrations and concerned institutions in all the districts.

The situation is being continuously monitored, he said, advising the citizens to report any untoward incident at helpines 1700 or 1122. 

Islamabad buildings evacuated

According to Islamabad police, no loss of life has been reported after the earthquake in the capital.

"Khudad Heights have been evacuated after cracks appeared in walls," the police said, adding the law personnel of the law enforcement agency and local government are present on the site. 

"The district administration has been requested to inspect the building."

Other high-rise residential buildings in the federal capital were also evacuated following the tremors.

6.6 magnitude earthquake

Earthquake tremors were felt in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Peshawar, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, and other areas of the country.

The epicentre of the earthquake was Afghanistan's Hindu Kush region, while its depth was 180 kilometres, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). 

The earthquake's effects were also felt in Peshawar, Swabi, Lodhran, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Skardu, Kohat, Toba Tek Singh, Parachinar, Nowshera, and Khanewal.

Meanwhile, authorities concerned in all affected cities are visiting the areas to inspect the affected buildings and facilitate the citizens.

In light of the powerful tremors felt in several parts of the country, Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel issued an emergency alert at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) as well as Federal Government Polyclinic.

“The hospital administration should ensure advance measures to deal with any emergency situation,” he said.

The moderate earthquake was followed by 3.7 magnitude aftershocks with a depth of 156 kilometres.

However, Pakistan was not the only country affected by the earthquake tremors were strongly felt across much of Afghanistan and even further east in parts of India.

"So far, thank God, there has been no bad news of casualties. We hope that all citizens of the country are safe," tweeted the Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

He said health centres across the country had been put on high alert.

Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.

Praying for the well-being of the people, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other institutions to be ready to deal with any emergency.

Several killed, injured in quake-related incidents

Several people sustained injuries and succumbed to death in earthquake-related incidents across the country.

A woman died when a wall of her house collapsed in Lower Dir, making it the first causality in the moderate earthquake that jolted most parts of the country.

According to police, the incident took place in Dheri area of Lower Dir. The hospital sources confirmed that a woman died after the wall of her house fell on her due to the tremors.

Police officials said that a 13-year-old girl was killed after her house wall collapsed in Swat. One more person was killed in the roof house collapse which also left two more people wounded, they added.

The police also said that a total of 50 injured were brought to Saidu Sharif hospital in Swat. Meanwhile, rescue officials said that a total of 43 people were injured in various accidents related to the earthquake in Lower Dir.

According to police, seven people were brought to the district hospital in the Timergara area of Lower Dir. Most of the people were injured in a stampede during the earthquake, the official added.

During the tremors, the roof of a house caved in Jamrud. No causality was reported in the incident, the police confirmed.

In twin cities — Islamabad and Rawalpindi — cracks emerged in various high-rise commercial and residential buildings and flats, triggering panic among the residents.

The initial report from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) revealed that two people were killed while six were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Meanwhile, eight houses were partially damaged. The provincial health department imposed an emergency in the hospitals.

Witness accounts 

Sarah Hasan, a resident of Islamabad, told Al Jazeera that the walls of her house vibrated as the earthquake rocked Islamabad.

“It started off slowly and then became strong,” the 43-year-old said. “The house was vibrating, things were shaking. It started slowing down, and after a few minutes, it felt like everything is calm again.”

"People ran out of their houses and were reciting the Quran," an AFP correspondent in Rawalpindi said.

Ikhlaq Kazmi, a retired professor in the city, told AFP his entire house started shaking.

"The children started shouting that there is an earthquake," he said. "We all ran out."

6.1-magnitude earthquake struck Pakistan last year

It is pertinent to mention here that a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan and Pakistan last year in June. The earthquake killed over 1,000 people in Afghanistan, injuring more than 600 others.

The quake had struck about 44km (27 miles) from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the US Geological Survey (USGC) said.

Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the EMSC said.

In Pakistan, tremors were felt in Islamabad, Multan, Bhakkar, Phalia, Peshawar, Malakand, Swat, Mianwali, Pakpattan, and Buner, among other places. Its depth was recorded at 44km, while its epicentre was southwest of Khost in Afghanistan.

Additional input from Reuters and AFP