SRINAGAR: Resuscitating memories of the massive 2005 disaster, a massive quake of 7.7 magnitude on the Richter scale with its epicenter in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan rocked Jammu and Kashmir Monday at 2:42 pm along with most of the South Asia creating panic and forcing people to move to safer places.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) placed the magnitude at 7.5 while United States Geological Survey (USGS) maintained that the magnitude of the tremor was 7.7 on Richter scale. The Pakistan Meteorological Department, however, said the magnitude of the earthquake was 8.1.
The earthquake was a grim reminder of the 2005 earthquake which had created widespread destruction and damage of the physical infrastructure besides loss of lives across Kashmir particularly on the other side of the Line of Control. The death toll in Jammu and Kashmir in 2005 quake was more than a hundred but in Pakistan administered Kashmir, which was the epicenter of 2005 quake, the death toll was around 85,000.
Walls and electric polls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office and residential buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Holy Quran. The intense quake lasted for more than four minutes and it caused damage to the property and infrastructure across Kashmir Valley.
An official from Disaster Management told reporters that given the epicenter of the earthquake was far away from Kashmir, no major damage was reported from any part of the State. The quake was 196 km deep and centered 82 km southeast of Feyzabad in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range.
He said that some residential houses developed cracks while at many places trees were uprooted creating panic among the people. Jahangir Chowk Flyover developed a crack as a result it was closed for the traffic. However, traffic was restored on the flyover after experts assessed the damage, he said.
The official added that an elderly lady from Baramulla district who was identified as Zoona Begum died of cardiac arrest. It is not clear whether she died after feeling the shocks of tremor or not, he said. The magnitude of Mondays earthquake was close to the previous earthquake of 2005, but the destruction was more widespread then due to the shallow epicentre of the earthquake. The earthquake in 2005 was at a depth of 26 km, while todays earthquake was at a depth of 212.5 km, he said.
There was complete chaos across the region with people reciting Quranic verses and seeking mercy from the Almighty.
The telephone and mobile phone services as well as electricity instantly was snapped causing more chaos and panic among people. People were unable to call their dear ones as they could not ascertain about their well being. Many people, mostly women and kids, were seen crying in fear while several fainted.
People were seen coming out from their houses, shops, vehicles and offices while women and children screamed reciting the holy verses. Traffic came to standstill while people in large numbers assembled at open places. Some people including policemen were seen prostrating after coming out from the buildings. It was a few minutes horror but I will never forget this day. I thought the world has finished, said Maimoona Begum, a working woman near Dalgate.
Official sources told reporters that cracks appeared in hundreds of multi-storeyed public and private buildings across Kashmir including Budgam, Anantnag, Baramulla, Pulwama, Kulgam, Kupwara, Bandipore and Ganderbal districts.
Sub-District Hospital building at saffron town of Pampore that was constructed at a cost of Rs 3 crore recently developed massive cracks due to earthquake.
Dozens of houses, mosques, government buildings, bridges and minarets have suffered damage due to quake. The Safakadal Bridge and Jehangir Chowk Flyover developed cracks.
Furthermore, the Charar-e-Shareef Shrine, also rebuilt only a couple of years back, has developed cracks due to the quake while another nearby shrine and a Jama Masjid has also suffered some damage. Three cars were damaged after the wall of GB Panth Sonwar hospital collapsed here.
The Kashmir Universitys Iqbal library and several class rooms have suffered partial damage. The minaret of Khanqah-e-Maula was also partially damaged. Besides, the Civil Secretariat has developed cracks due to quake. The walls of dozens of houses fell due to quake while in Boniyar area of Uri, several houses have been damaged.
Scores of vehicles also suffered damages while few private vehicles came under roadside falling Chinar branches, however, no casualty was reported. Initial reports suggest that many residential houses, government and semi-government buildings have developed cracks while in some far flung areas, few houses collapsed resulting in the injuries of some people, an official said adding that they are collecting information on loss of life and damaged to public and private property from across the Valley.
Communication services were also disrupted in Kashmir. Citizens took to social media to post reports of the massive quake that lasted for more than four minutes.
Experts told Kashmir Observer that there are ample possibilities of aftershocks. In 2005, aftershocks were felt for over a month. Whenever we witness an earthquake with such a magnitude, we also witness aftershocks but that will be of lesser magnitude. We advise people to be cautious but there is no need to panic, they said.
Forty minutes after the first earthquake, an aftershock of 4.8 magnitude was reported in the same area.
Meanwhile an official spokesman said late on Monday, that the electricity and all modes of communication have been restored across the region.
The earthquake also hit Pakistan and Northern parts of India. Pakistani media reported that over a hundred people were killed in the tremor shocks that also caused heavy damage to the property.
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