KABUL/ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: In Pakistan, at least 228 people are confirmed dead in the aftermath of a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake which hit northern Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says at least 1,620 are injured across Pakistan.
Rescuers on Tuesday rushed to deliver relief aid to victims of the quake, which killed at least 291 people in the Pak-Afghan region over a wide swathe of mountainous terrain.
The initial quake — which struck the country at 2:09pm Monday — was followed by seven aftershocks, measuring as high as magnitude 4.8, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The latest aftershock came just before dawn on Tuesday.
“Many houses and buildings have collapsed in the city,” said Arbab Muhammad Asim, district mayor for the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Many people were trapped under piles of rubble, with officials warning that the toll was set to rise.
“The building was swinging like a pendulum, it felt as if the heavens would fall,” Peshawar shop owner Tufail Ahmed told AFP.
Thousands spent the night outdoors in near-freezing temperatures reluctant to go back inside for fear of aftershocks, Pakistani media reported.
"Rescue work is ongoing, and tents, blankets and sleeping mats are being provided," Latifur Rehman, a Pakistani disaster management official, told Reuters from Peshawar.
Pakistan's military and civilian authorities dispatched several helicopters to affected areas to assess damage and run rescue operations, the NDMA said.
However, eyewitnesses near Lower Dir's Khal area have a different story to tell.
One Syed Shah says, "No rescue teams have reached here yet. There is no power, no water and no roads are open."
His account is echoed by Irshadullah who says, "Our houses are not capable of living in. We spent the whole night under the open sky because we were afraid of the aftershocks. Everything we own is buried under the debris of our house."
Shah says his house, too, has been completely destroyed. "All our possessions and our money is buried under it," he says.
"We sent our children to relatives living 5km away. We are very scared."
At least 95 people, including women and children, are injured, with many admitted to District Headquarters Hospital Timergara.
At least 12 houses have been destroyed in a village near Khal, where over 50 per cent of houses have been damaged by the quake.
According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Provincial Disaster Management Authority, the highest number of confirmed deaths in the province is 38 in Shangla, while the highest number of injuries has been confirmed as 248 in Lower Dir.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said he would personally oversee the rescue efforts. "We will try our best to deal with this disaster using our own resources," he had said.
The toll is expected to rise as search teams reach remote areas that are cut off by the powerful 7.5 magnitude quake, which triggered landslides and stampedes as it toppled buildings and severed communication lines.
Landslides in Pakistan's northern areas over the weekend caused by heavy rain and snow had already left thousands of tourists stranded.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department measured the intensity of the quake as 8.1.
The US Geological Survey (USGS), however, estimated the quake’s intensity at 7.7, then revised it down to 7.5 on the Richter scale.
An official from the Met Office said that the USGS readings were different from PMD’s because they were monitoring the situation from mainland America, as USGS did not have a station in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
“On the other hand, PMD has bases to observe seismic activities in Cherat and Chitral. There is also an advanced station in the Pattan area of Swat, since these areas fall in the active seismic zone,” the official said.
The US and Iran were among countries that offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that have wrecked its economy and infrastructure.