Pakistan quake kills at least 22
An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 hit southern Pakistan in the early hours of Thursday, killing 22 people, most of them women and children, and injuring about 300, at a time when many victims were asleep, authorities said.
Disaster management officials said the death toll may increase, Geo News reported.
The National Seismic Monitoring Centre in Islamabad reported that the epicentre of the earthquake was near Harnai at a depth of around 15km. It further said the exact damage has not yet been confirmed.
The quake affected Quetta, Sibi, Harnai, Pishin, Qila Saifullah, Chaman, Ziarat and Zhob in Balochistan. Most of the deaths and injuries were reported from the remote north-eastern district of Harnai, with landslides triggered by the jolt blocking some roads and hampering rescue efforts in the area.
The US Geological Survey said it was a 5.9 magnitude quake that struck at a shallow depth. Shallow quakes can cause more damage.
The death toll of 22 was confirmed by deputy commissioner of Harnai district Sohail Anwar Hashmi. There were six children among the dead.
“I was sleeping when suddenly my entire house jolted,” Munir Shah, 40, a resident of Harnai district in Balochistan province, told Reuters.
“I took my children and wife outside. It was a terrifying situation as houses in Harnai were collapsing, my house was also damaged,” he added. “I found a large number of people under debris. Some of them might have died.”
“I tried to take out my children, but the jolt was so strong,” Rafiullah, a farmer in the mountainous Pakistani district of Harnai, told AFP.
The roof of his mud house collapsed and knocked Rafiullah unconscious when the earthquake struck.
“When I regained consciousness, I pulled out two of my sons,” he said. But his youngest boy, only around one, had been struck by a wooden beam, and “had already died”.
More than 100 mud houses collapsed and many buildings were damaged, said district official Anwar. Television images showed buildings with gaping cracks, caved-in roofs and crumpled walls.
About 250 homes collapsed and many people were killed by falling roofs and crumbling walls in the district’s Babu Mohallah neighbourhood, said Nawab Khan, a local journalist.
“The entire town is a picture of devastation, as no house looks safe, thousands of people are rendered homeless and are under open sky,” Khan said, adding that almost 70% of power supply to the district had been disrupted.
Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered immediate assessment of the damages and offered condolences to families that lost loved ones, adding, “I have ordered immediate assistance on an emergency basis ... for the earthquake victims.”
Social media showed houses shaking and light fittings swaying as the quake struck. Stunned residents later gathered in the streets in the dark. Geo Television carried CCTV footage of trucks shaking.
Rescuers sifted rubble for survivors, with some of the injured being treated on stretchers in the street by torchlight from mobile telephones.
“The earthquake struck at about 3am,” said one resident, Muzaffar Khan Tareen, adding that some of the seriously injured were in hospital awaiting ambulances to take them to Quetta.
An army helicopter flew at least nine of the seriously injured to Quetta, state-run Associated Press Pakistan said.
Aftershocks were being felt across the region. Pakistan sits on top of colliding tectonic plates and earthquakes are common.
A quake of 7.7 magnitude that hit Quetta in 1935 killed between 30,000 and 60,000 and destroying much of the city.
In 2005, an earthquake of magnitude 7.6 killed about 73,000 people when it struck about 95km northeast of the capital, Islamabad.