‘Patients were screaming’: Panic as quake hits northwest Pakistan

Residents recall a night of ‘complete chaos’ after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake with epicentre in neighbouring Afghanistan hits the region.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Muhammed Zubair Khan was buying groceries at a shop in Abbottabad city in northwest Pakistan when he felt the ground shaking.

“The shopkeeper suddenly started shouting ‘earthquake’ as I was buying things and all of us in the shop ran towards the open road,” the 46-year-old writer told Al Jazeera over the telephone.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the city in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday night, killing at least 13 people so far, including four in neighbouring Afghanistan, according to officials in both countries.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake’s epicentre was 40km (25 miles) southeast of the Afghan town of Jurm, located near the country’s borders with Pakistan and Tajikistan.


According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, tremors were felt more than 1,000km (620 miles) across cities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.

When he reached the open road, Khan says, he saw a large number of people praying loudly, while some began to walk towards a nearby hospital to see if any help was required.

“I also went towards the hospital where we saw complete chaos and panic. Patients were screaming. I saw many people stuck on the upper floor of the hospital, unable to come down,” he said.

People are seen in a street as an injured citizen is being loaded into an ambulance to be taken to a hospital following a strong earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan.
An injured man being taken to a hospital in Peshawar following the earthquake [Hussain Ali/Anadolu Agency]

Khan said he also saw flames coming out of an electricity transformer outside the hospital, adding to the panic among patients and others.

“We have all experienced the 2005 earthquake and today’s jolt was a reminder of that. Even though the shocks were of a much shorter duration, there is palpable fear among people right now,” he told Al Jazeera.

At least 73,000 people were killed by a powerful magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck northern Pakistan in 2005.

Rescue officials in Pakistan said on Wednesday at least nine people, including two children, were killed in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“A total of 47 people were reported injured across various districts in the province,” Bilal Faizi, spokesman for the Rescue 1122 service in the province, told Al Jazeera.

Faizi added that the quake also triggered landslides in the province’s Swat district, about 180km (112 miles) northwest of federal capital Islamabad.

“Over 20 buildings have suffered damage due to the jolts, but the damage is only partial. So far, we have no reports of complete damage,” he said.

Sharafat Zaman, spokesman for Afghanistan’s health ministry, said on Twitter at least four people were killed in the earthquake in the country, adding that the toll could go up.

earthquake Kashmir
People on a road after tremors were felt in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir [Farooq Khan/EPA]

Fazal Rehman, a resident of Bajaur district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said he was in the middle of his prayers when he felt the tremors.

“I was in prostration when I experienced the first jolt. My wife and two-year-old son were in the room. I shouted at them to leave the room immediately and in panic, my wife rushed out leaving our son in the room,” the station manager at a local radio outlet told Al Jazeera.

“As I carried my son and my father outside, we experienced a second, more powerful jolt which lasted for nearly 20 seconds,” he said.

Rehman also said the jolts were a “terrible reminder” of the 2005 tragedy.

“I was a student at the time. This quake was such a horrifying reminder of the devastation we saw then,” said the 31-year-old.

Source: Al Jazeera