Last Updated: Wed Jan 19, 2011 13:31 pm (KSA) 10:31 am (GMT)

Panic as major earthquake rattles Pakistan


A powerful earthquake rocked southwest Pakistan on Wednesday, sending panicked people rushing from their homes in fear of their lives and being felt as far away as India and the Gulf.

Television footage showed terrified people fleeing their houses in cold conditions, reciting verses from the Quran.

The 7.2 magnitude quake struck at 1:23 am (2023 GMT Tuesday), around 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the town of Dalbandin, close to the border with Afghanistan, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, according to AFP.

The strong shake brought into memories the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that hit northern Pakistan on Oct. 8, 2005 killing more than 73,000 people and leaving about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Rescue services said that they were on alert after the quake in the sparsely populated area but had received no emergency calls and there were no initial reports of casualties.

Strong tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital New Delhi, around 1,300 kilometers (850 miles) away, as well as several other cities across northwestern India, though there were no reports of any damage.

10 kms below surface

Data on the USGS website suggested the quake had also been felt across in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan were unaffected by the quake, according to preliminary reports from the U.S. military.

As dawn breaks and officials reach the affected area, more damage and fatalities may be revealed in an area where traditional simple structures may have fared badly under the strains of the powerful tremor.

The USGS said the quake had a magnitude of 7.2 and hit at a depth of 84 kilometers, revising down an earlier report of 7.4-magnitude.

The initial bulletin from USGS said the earthquake hit just 10 kilometers below the surface. At that depth, quakes can cause major destruction and loss of life.

Pakistan's Meteorological Department gave a magnitude of 7.3 and located the epicenter 55 kilometers northwest of Kharan, a town in the thinly populated southwestern Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

"The earthquake occurred at around 1:23 am and it was felt in Baluchistan, Sindh and southern Punjab provinces," chief meteorologist Mohammad Riaz told AFP.

"There could be aftershocks during the next week -- there are active fault lines in Baluchistan."

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no chance of the inland quake causing a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Pakistan is still reeling from devastating floods last year that left more than 10 million people homeless.

Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept north to south in July and August affected 21 million people, consumed entire villages, wiped out agricultural land and destroyed industries.

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