A powerful 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted several cities and northern parts of the country on Tuesday afternoon, leaving at least eight people dead and over 100 others injured, officials said.
The tremors lasted for 8-10 seconds and were felt strongly, DawnNewsTV reported.
Occurring just after 4pm, the shallow quake 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, some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The worst hit was Mirpur, Azad Kashmir,” chief meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told AFP.
The cities where the tremors were felt included Islamabad, Mirpur, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sialkot, Sargodha, Mansehra, Gujrat, Chitral, Malakand, Multan, Shangla, Bajaur, Swat, Sahiwal and Rahim Yar Khan.
A road heavily damaged by the quake in Mirpur. — DawnNewsTV
Divisional Commissioner Chaudhry Muhammad Tayyab said at least eight people, three of them young children, were reported to have died and more than 100 others wounded due to the quake in Mirpur. Two of the victims were brought dead and the rest succumbed to their injuries in Divisional Headquarters Hospital Mirpur, he added.
Among the people being treated for their wounds, around 35 have sustained critical injuries, Tayyab said.
Earlier, AJK Minister for Sports, Youth and Culture Chaudhry Mohammad Saeed told Dawn that a state of emergency had been declared in the state-run and private hospitals of the town.
Saeed, who returned from Mirpur city, said most of the injured were from the outskirts of Mirpur, such as Afzalpur, Jatlan and New City.
“People were panicked in the beginning, but they have gradually started adjusting themselves with the situation,” he added.
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 some 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 to help out the victims of this worst natural disaster,” the statement added.
Tremors felt in India
Witnesses Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir told AFP at least 50 people were injured by the quake that caused a building to collapse in Mirpur and inflicted heavy damage on at least one road. There are also reports of walls collapsing in the area.
Footage shows damage to a road in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir.
Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, while the Press Trust of India reported that people rushed out of their homes and offices in panic in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. According to DNA India, the quake was also felt in parts of Indian-occupied Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.
Najeeb Ahmed, a deputy director at Pakistan Meteorological Department’s earthquake centre, told DawnNewsTV that the quake measured 5.8 on the magnitude scale and was at a depth of 10 kilometres.
The quake sent people racing out of buildings and offices in cities across the country.
The military’s media wing tweeted that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has issued directions for troops to conduct an “immediate rescue operation” in aid of the civil administration for victims of the earthquake in AJK.
Army troops with aviation and medical support teams have been dispatched to the area, it added.
Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.
People stand outside a building in Lahore after the earthquake. — DawnNewsTV
In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude 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 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in AJK.
People in the capital and other cities took to social media to share how they experienced the earthquake.
This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.