MIRPUR (PAKISTAN) – A shallow tremor sent terrified people running into the streets in northeastern Pakistan on Thursday, days after a powerful quake killed 38 people, flattened thousands of homes and destroyed infrastructure and roads in the same area.
The quake rattled already frayed nerves in the city of Mirpur in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, as fears of the fallout from another powerful tremor sent hundreds into the streets and put local hospitals on alert.
An AFP reporter in the city described the shaking as “a wave going underneath the earth”.
The US Geological Survey put the quake at 4.7 magnitude and 10 kilometres (six miles) deep, adding that it had struck just four kilometres outside of Mirpur.
Pakistan’s top meteorologist, Muhammad Riaz, said the epicentre of the 4.4-magnitude tremor was 12 kilometres deep.
City residents huddled in the streets following the quake, some still barefoot, while others recited verses from the Koran.
“It’s hell. I am running to save my life,” Mohammad Bilal told AFP moments after the tremor.
“I thought most of the building would have tumbled down,” said Sagheer Ahmad. “Allah is very kind to us.” Dozens of patients were evacuated from the main government hospital in Mirpur, some in wheelchairs or on stretchers.
The city’s hospitals were already packed with hundreds injured by the quake earlier in the week.
The tremor came as rescuers continued to pick through toppled buildings to reach victims from Tuesday’s earthquake.
The village of Jatlan on the outskirts of Mirpur appeared to be one of the worst affected by Tuesday’s quake, while Mirpur was largely spared major damage
In Jatlan, bridges, mobile-phone towers and electricity poles were badly damaged while its roads were ripped apart.
Pakistani geologists blamed the “poor construction of shanty houses in Jatlan” for some of the damage, as well as its location near a fault line and the shallowness of the quake.
Pakistan’s Kashmir information minister Mushtaq Minhas said at least 6,500 homes were destroyed by Tuesday’s quake, adding that officials had begun to distribute thousands of tents to affected residents.
Mirpur, a city known for its palatial houses, has strong ties to Britain and many of its population of 450,000 carry both British and Pakistani passports.
The city owes its prosperity to thousands of former residents who migrated to Britain in the 1960s, but retained their links to the area — repatriating money to buy land and build plush homes.
Tuesday’s quake also sent people in Lahore and Islamabad running into the streets, while tremors were felt as far as New Delhi.
Pakistan straddles the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.
In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people across rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.
The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. (AFP)