At Least 38 Dead, 700 Injured in Pakistan Earthquake

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck two miles away from Mirpur in Pakistan. (Wikimedia Commons)

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck two miles away from Mirpur in Pakistan. (Wikimedia Commons)

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit northeast Pakistan, killing at least 38 people and injuring 700 on September 24. The quake struck about two miles southeast of the Mirpur district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, but much of northern Pakistan also experienced the quake. Authorities say that rescue searches are complete, but they are still assessing the damage.

According to the Japan Times, Pakistan is located between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

The earthquake’s magnitude was 5.6, which rates as “moderate” on the Richter scale (which ranges from 0 to 10+); however, seismologists have never recorded a 10-magnitude earthquake. However, because the epicenter was shallow, the earthquake caused significant damage to homes, bridges, mobile towers, and electricity poles. Giant cracks have opened in the roads. In particular, the damage to a main road near Mirpur caused several vehicular accidents, according to the Weather Channel. 

Additionally, the buildings in the area were vulnerable to earthquakes, which contributed to the severity of the damage. Pakistan’s chief meteorologist, Muhammad Riaz, said that the construction industry often did not follow building codes in the area. Jatlan, a village near a fault line on the outskirts of Mirpur, experienced considerable damage due to poorly constructed houses and unenforced building codes.

The earthquake badly damaged Jatlan’s homes and stone fences. Pakistani geologists blamed poor house construction standards in the area. As the Pakistan military continues to assess damage and lead search operations, the death toll will very likely continue to rise. 

After spending the rest of the night in heavy rain, hundreds of survivors joined to hold funerals for the residents who were killed near Mirpur, a city 80 miles from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

Standing in a street lined with damaged stores, an unidentified shop owner told Pakistan’s Geo News, “I was sitting in my shop when suddenly the walls started swaying. I knew that it is a strong earthquake. The moment I came out of my shop, its roof caved in.”

Doctors have arrived in the area, along with food, tents, and water. A hospital near Mirpur treated 700 people, later transferring some of the patients to the district’s main hospital. Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said that ambassadors of three countries offered assistance, but the Pakistani government had the situation under control.

Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said that survivors would be offered compensation. However, relief efforts face logistical obstacles as many roads are damaged.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that many had to sleep in open areas several nights immediately after the quake as tents were not set up.

The last major earthquake in Pakistan occurred in the Kashmiri town of Azad in 2005, claiming 87,000 lives and leaving 2.8 million displaced.