Magnitude 5.8 quake rocks Pakistani Kashmir, kills 19

Reuters , Tuesday 24 Sep 2019

An earthquake of magnitude 5.8 shook northern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 19 people and injuring 100, government and police officials said.

Photos and video carried by local media showed a collapsed building and cracks in roads large enough to swallow cars in Mirpur, a town on Pakistan’s side of the disputed territory of Kashmir near India.

District commissioner Mohammad Tayyab said 19 people were killed, including three children. District police chief Irfan Saleem said more than 100 more suffered injuries.

 “I am in the hospital right now and I am being told that several of the injured people are in a critical condition,” Saleem told Reuters by phone.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistan Armed Forces, tweeted that army troops with aviation and medical support teams were dispatched.

 “Thank God, the damage is confined to one particular area, and this one is pretty accessible from all sides,” the chief of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal, told ARY News TV. “I can tell you right now that there is not a fear of a very big death toll.”

The rescue operation looked to be complete by Wednesday evening, Afzal said.

 “Our whole concentration right now is to accelerate the rescue operation,” Raja Farooq Haider, prime minister of Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir region, told GNN TV. “There are people who are stuck there and who need immediate help. We are putting in all our resources to get people the best of our help.”

The quake struck 14 miles (23 km) north of Jhelum, Pakistan, at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported.

 “Prime Minister Imran Khan expresses deep concern over the damage caused by the earthquake and directs all departments to provide immediate assistance,” the Pakistan government said in a tweet.

Most damage was in an area between Jhelum and Mirpur, said Afzal. Jhelum is located in northeastern Pakistan, roughly 120 km southeast of the capital Islamabad.

The last major earthquake in Kashmir happened in 2005, killing more than 80,000 people.

The Himalayan region is divided between India, which rules the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, Pakistan, which controls a wedge of territory in the west, and China, which holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.

The territory has been in dispute between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947, and the cause of two wars between the countries.

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