Quake jolts North India, Pak, Afghanistan
An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale and with its epicentre in Afghanistan shook large parts of north India, causing widespread panic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately offered help to Afghanistan and Pakistan where over a dozen people were killed.
People rushed out of offices and homes in New Delhi following tremors that lasted 30-40 seconds (Photo: Sandeep Datta/ IANS)
Hundreds of thousands of people fled out of their houses and offices in Delhi and adjoining areas as well as in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. There were no reports of casualties but there was major damage to property in Kashmir.
The tremors, around 2.40 p.m., were distinctly felt for 30-40 seconds, shaking high-rise buildings all across north India. The epicentre of the quake lay in Jarm in Afghanistan, 256 km northeast of Kabul.
Most multi-storey public and private buildings in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, suffered huge cracks. Dozens of houses and school buildings collapsed in southern and central parts of the Kashmir Valley, officials and residents said.
Traffic came to an abrupt halt as vehicles started swinging on shaking roads in the valley. A traffic flyover in Srinagar developed cracks.
Prime Minister Modi said India was ready to provide help to Kabul and Islamabad.
"Heard about strong earthquake in Afghanistan-Pakistan region whose tremors have been felt in parts of India. I pray for everyone's safety," he tweeted.
"I have asked for an urgent assessment, and we stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked people not to panic and said disaster management teams had been activated.
Among the first to tweet in the Modi government was Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who said as if someone with a firm hand was moving her chair.
"Massive, massive... praying," is how Delhi's Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra reacted.
As the tremors began, Delhi Metro immediately halted its services all across the capital and in the neighbouring regions of Gurgaon in Haryana and Noida in Uttar Pradesh. Jaipur Metro too followed suit.
A Delhi Metro spokesman told IANS that the services were resumed after officials did a quick check for possible damage to infrastructure and rail tracks.
The worst hit were Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were no immediate reports of casualties from Afghanistan but Pakistani officials said around 13 people had been killed in different parts of the country.
India's ambassador in Kabul, Amar Singh, told IANS over telephone that he had no report of any casualty or damage to property among Indians.
Afghanistan soon felt a major aftershock -- measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale.
The quake was felt in most of the northern parts of Pakistan including major cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sargodha and Kohat, Dawn and other Pakistani media quoted officials as saying.
Four people were killed in the Bajaur tribal region near the Afghanistan border after buildings collapsed in the area.
A child was killed in Kallar Kahar in Chakwal district and six people were killed in Swat Valley. One woman died in Sargodha in Punjab when a wall collapsed, also injuring 10 people. A man was killed in Kasur district.
At least 200 people were admitted to a hospital in Swat and another 100 in a Peshawar hospital, officials said.
Dunya News said a part of Bala Hissar fort in Peshawar had been damaged.
Pakistan puts its army on alert, and directed it to carry out immediate rescue work in affected areas without waiting for formal orders.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa tweeted that army teams had been sent out for a quick assessment of earthquake damages across the country.
All command military hospitals were placed on high alert. - IANS