Devastating earthquake shatters people's life in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

Source:Xinhua Published: 2019/9/26 16:31:12

Pakistani soldiers transfer an earthquake victim to a hospital in Mirpur district of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

"The happy lives of people in the villages changed into a painful situation in blink of an eye," said a volunteer worker.

Eyewitnesses at hospital said the hospitals had to receive patients beyond their capacity, with many of the wounded being treated on mattresses laid on the lawn outside.

Muhammad Zohaib, 6, plays with his two brothers in the courtyard of his house every day after coming back from school in Mirpur district of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

On Tuesday afternoon, the boys were engaged in their usual play routine when a house wall collapsed on them because of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake striking their area, among others, in the country.

Zohaib and his brothers were dug out from debris by their eldest teenager brother, who was watching them playing and disappearing under the debris from a distance when the earthquake hit.

The six-year-old is now fighting for his life in District Headquarters Hospital where he was shifted from his village. His two other brothers have been discharged from hospital, and are waiting for their playmate to return home.

People stand outside a hospital in Mirpur district of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

Talking to Xinhua, Zohaib's uncle, who was attending him at the hospital, said that the tremors played havoc at his village near Jatlan town of the district, leaving scores of people killed and injured, and his nephew being one of the critically injured patients has been shifted to the hospital from Jatlan hospital.

The earthquake lasted for about 7-8 seconds and proved to be calamitous for the areas located near the epicenter at the border area of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and east Punjab province's Jhelum district. Officials from Pakistan Meteorological Department told Xinhua that the shallow focal depth of the quake, recorded only 10 km in the ground, has caused the disastrous situation in the valley.

The hospitals including the one in Jatlan and the District Headquarter Hospital received 482 injured patients out of which 21 succumbed to injuries, and 93 critically wounded victims are being treated at the hospitals, Aftab Ahmad Khan, director general of health services in the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir told Xinhua.

A man takes care of an earthquake victim at a hospital in Mirpur district of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)


He said that 362 patients have been discharged after receiving medical treatment while six have been referred to military hospital and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Islamabad.

The quake collapsed dozens of houses, rendering hundreds of people homeless, and incurring causalities in Mirpur city and its adjoining villages.

The main road connecting Mirpur with Jatlan was badly damaged with cracks big enough to swallow cars and even vans. Embankment of a canal in Jatlan collapsed from two separate areas, inundating the nearby villages, and disrupting road connectivity.

Shabbir Ahmad, a volunteer rescue worker, feared that there might be some injured people in the areas beyond the 8-km collapsed road needing help, which could not reach them due to suspension of road traffic, but he is determined to reach there with military teams and volunteer rescue workers by Wednesday noon.

Talking about the general impact of the earthquake in the area, Ahmad told Xinhua that the tremors were very strong, but he did not expect it would result in a disastrous situation.

A doctor checks x-ray report of an earthquake victim at a hospital in Mirpur district of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

"I came to my area (Jatlan) from Mirpur, and what I saw here is beyond explanation. People were rushing hither and yon in anxiety, carrying their babies, their parents, and their other loved ones," he said.

"Many volunteers like me also rushed to the area for rescue work, and my friends and I handed over the bodies from hospital to relatives at their houses by ourselves, and it was a very heart rendering sight to watch. The happy lives of people in the villages changed into a painful situation in blink of an eye," he added.

Eyewitnesses at Jatlan and the District Headquarter Hospital said that the hospitals had to receive and treat patients beyond their capacity, and many of the wounded people were treated on mattresses laid on the ground under the open sky in the hospitals' lawn. However, the doctors made sure to provide medical treatment to every victim, even under the open skies.

Earthquake victims receive medical treatment at a hospital in Mirpur district of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

Farooq Ahmad Noor, medical superintendent at the District Headquarter Hospital said that the medical operations are much under control now, after they discharged the slightly wounded people and referred the critically injured to other hospitals.

Noor told Xinhua that the military hospital in Mirpur and hospitals from Jhelum extended their full support to them, and sent their teams to give medical treatment to the patients during the rush hours.

He said that the injured people are still being brought to the hospital from far-flung areas, and they are expecting to get more patients on Wednesday.

Pakistan has a worse history of serious earthquakes, as it is located at one of the most earthquake prone areas with high vulnerability to earthquakes.

An earthquake of 7.6 magnitude had hit parts of the country in 2005, leaving over 86,000 people killed. Recalling the 2005 earthquake, Bilal Habib, a shopkeeper from Mirpur said that it lasted for about one minute, but the latest quake's impact was stronger in the area, despite that its duration was hardly seven seconds.

"It scares me to the core that if Tuesday's earthquake's duration was one minute like the last one, which I experienced when I was 13, I might not have been standing here," the 27-year-old told Xinhua.

Talking to Xinhua on condition of anonymity, an army member en route to calamity-hit parts of Jatlan said that the military has had an aerial survey of the area, and a heavy contingent has been dispatched to carry out the rescue and relief operation which includes repairing the damaged roads, rebuilding the canal's collapsed embankment, and rescuing the people still trapped in the far-off areas.

A long queue of volunteers was also witnessed outside the District Headquarter Hospital, offering their blood for the earthquake victims. Non-governmental organizations were also seen active in the hospital and in the affected areas, distributing food and medicine among the people.

The country's Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed sorrow over the incident and directed the relevant authorities to "ensure fast and immediate relief for the affected and damage assessment."


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