CLIMATE | An Account of Powerful Hindu Kush Earthquake by ThirdPole
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CLIMATE | An Account of Powerful Hindu Kush Earthquake by ThirdPole

By ThirdPole 

An estimated 150 people have been killed and more than 950 people injured after a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck north-eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan a little after noon on October 26, 2015.

The earthquake was 212 km deep and was centered in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, 82 km south of the Badakhshan capital Faizabad, the US Geological Survey reported.

Tremors from the quake were also felt in northern India and Tajikistan.

In Pakistan, 114 people have been killed and 956 injured across the country, according to the federal minister of information Pervez Rashid. However, unofficial figures show that the total death toll has crossed 160.

The northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has been most affected area in Pakistan with 50 reported deaths, including children and women killed by collapsing houses. It is feared that the number of causalities will rise as reports trickle in from more remote areas. The scale of the damage is still unclear as communication systems have been down across the country.

The earthquake was felt in the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Quetta, Peshawar, and the northern provinces of Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said.

As many as 94 people have died in neighbouring Afghanistan, State-run Pakistan TV reported. Meanwhile, Afghan officials say 33 people were killed nation-wide including 12 schoolgirls who were trampled to death while trying to get out of swaying buildings.

The first quake was followed by a 4.8 magnitude aftershock shortly afterwards.

In Islamabad, buildings shook and people flocked into the streets, crying and reciting verses from the holy Quran. “I was having lunch when the massive earthquake shattered my home. We rushed out with children in a panic,” said Sher Akbar, a resident of Islamabad. He said that it was difficult to walk due to the shaking earth.

 Unprecedented Quake

The earthquake is one of the strongest in the country’s history. The 7.6 magnitude quake that hit Pakistan in 2005 killed more than 75,000 people, the vast majority of them in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was called then) and the Pakistani-administered zone of Kashmir.

This earthquake has been less destructive because it struck far deeper below the surface of the earth and extended over a greater area than the 2005 quake, a former chief of the Pakistan Metrological Department, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry told Today’s quake was 212 km deep, compared to 10 km depth of the 2005 quake. There could be aftershocks of up to a magnitude of 6 for the next two or three months, he said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has declared a national emergency and directed government agencies to remain vigilant and provide assistance to the people. The national disaster management authority is coordinating the provincial and district response. The Chief of Army Staff has also directed all core commanders to visit their respective areas.

Landslides and glacier collapse

The Karakorum Highway that links Pakistan and China has also been blocked at three points due to landslides, making the relief and rescue response more difficult. In the Hunza area of Gilgit-Baltistan an entire glacier has reportedly collapsed.

Landslides in Chitral and northern parts of country have blocked and damaged roads, cutting off entire areas. People in Chitral are facing tremendous difficulties in getting injured people to Peshawar and other cities for treatment due to blockade of Lawari tunnel, said Zarwali Khan, a resident of Chitral, over the phone.

At least 194 injured were brought to Swat’s Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital, which does not have adequate medical facilities, a journalist told a local TV channel.

Northern India Shaken

The earthquake was powerful enough to shake Indian-administered Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, the Indian capital New Delhi, western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. In New Delhi and adjoining areas of the National Capital Region office workers, homemakers, children just back from school all rushed out of their homes, especially those who work and live in high-rise buildings.

In the Jammu region, a farmer died in a rock slide as he was running to safety  in a hilly area.  Across Kashmir, people frantically ran out of houses and buildings and waited for hours together before going back inside, fearful stronger quakes were yet to come.  Though no major damage occurred, experts say that the building infrastructure in this region is highly vulnerable as quake-resistant engineering requirements are not followed during construction. A long overhead bridge in Srinagar city developed a long crack in today’s disaster, raising suspicions that government engineers and policy makers are not prioritizing peoples’ safety.

Memories of the April 25 Nepal earthquake, which also shook all of northern India, are still fresh in the minds of residents, and few were going to take chances. Many residents were indignant with municipal authorities for not having organized earthquake drills even after repeated tremors.

This article originally published at ThirdPole.Net on October 26,2015

This work is under Creative Commons' Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Image Attribute : USGS Shakemap October 26, 2015 Hindu Kush / Source: Wikimedia Commons [Link]