A strong 5.8 magnitude tremor has hit the Pakistani capital Islamabad and other cities in the eastern Punjab province, leaving at least 19 people dead and 300 injured, officials said. The earthquake was also felt in Lahore, Peshawar and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with people rushing into the streets in case of further tremors. Footage of destruction in Mirpur, a city in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir region, showed chasms torn several feet deep into roads, with cars and buses overturned. Dozens of homes and shops were destroyed by the tremor,
while some villages were submerged in water after a breach at a canal, reports said. “Our whole concentration right now is to accelerate the rescue operation,” Raja Farooq Haider, prime minister of Azad Kashmir 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.” Pakistan’s meteorological department said that according to its preliminary assessment, the epicenter of the 5.8-magnitude quake was located near the mountainous city of Jehlum in the Punjab province.
Pakistan Armed Forces spokesperson major general Asif Ghafoor said an immediate rescue operation had been launched, with aviation and medical support teams dispatched.
Several people who had reached hospital were in a critical condition, Mirpur’s district police chief Irfan Saleem said.
“I was sitting in my shop when suddenly the walls started swaying,” one shop owner told Pakistan’s Geo News channel, from a street littered with debris from damaged buildings.
“I knew that it is a strong earthquake. The moment I came out of my shop, its roof caved in.”
The last major earthquake in Kashmir happened in 2005, killing more than 80,000 people. More damages are expected to be reported in the days to come.