7.2 temblor jolts Pakistan, 200 structures damaged

Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 19 (PTI) A powerful earthquakemeasuring 7.2 on the Richter scale that hit a remote area ofsouthwest Pakistan today shook the ground from Delhi to Dubai,damaging about 200 structures though there were no reports ofdirect casualties.

However, two women � one in Jacobabad in Sindhprovince and another at Quetta in Balochistan � died of heartattacks during the quake while three persons were taken tohospital at Multan in Punjab after suffering cardiac arrest,Geo News channel reported.

Initial reports indicated that around 200 mud housesnear the epicentre of the quake in Balochistan province weredamaged though there were no reports of loss of lives,National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Nadeem Ahmedsaid.

The earthquake occurred at 1:23 am Pakistan time at adepth of 84 km, the US Geological Survey said.

Its epicentre was 45 km west of Dalbandin, a remotetown in Balochistan with a population of 15,000.

Pakistan Meteorological Department Director ArifMahmood said the quake was felt in Punjab, Sindh andBalochistan provinces of Pakistan and parts of Iran and India.

He said quakes of such magnitude in the past werefollowed by aftershocks.

Footage on television showed people fleeing theirhomes in several cities, including Quetta and Karachi, andgathering in streets and open spaces.

Some men prayed while women read from the Quran.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani directed theNational Disaster Management Authority to keep reliefprovisions ready for dealing with any emergency in theaftermath of the quake.

He directed the NDMA to rush tents, blankets, medicineand food to Quetta as a "standby arrangement for quickdelivery if required".

A contingency plan was also finalised during a meetingbetween the Prime Minister and the NDMA chief this morning.

Gilani said army, paramilitary and law enforcementpersonnel should be sent to make an assessment ofquake-affected districts.

Officials said there were apparently no casualties atthe epicentre because the region is sparsely populated.

People living near the epicentre in Kalat, Dalbadinand Kharan districts told CNN some mud-walled homes weredamaged but no one was hurt.

People in Balochistan and Sindh said they had feltbuildings sway during the quake.

The temblor shook the cities of Hyderabad, Quetta,Jaffarabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Multan andSargodha. Residents of high-rise buildings in Karachi rushedout into the streets. .

People in places as far apart as Dubai and New Delhi, 1,300 km from the epicentre, felt the quake.

The Pacific Tsunami Centre said the onshore quake hadnot triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Quakes of 7.0 to 7.9 are classified by geologicalauthorities as major and are capable of causing widespread andheavy damage.

On October 8, 2005, a 7.6-magnitude quake 95 kmnortheast of Islamabad killed over 70,000 people.

Pakistan is still recovering from the impact ofdevastating floods that swept vast areas of the country lastyear and officials said another natural disaster couldseverely stretch resources.

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