The death toll continues to rise in the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the Af-Pak region on Monday. Over 300 people are now said to be dead in the aftermath of the massive quake.
The quake, whose epicenter was in the Jarm area of north Afghanistan, has affected Pakistan the most. More than 250 people are reported to be dead in Pakistan alone in the strongest quake recorded in the last 10 years. Maximum deaths have been recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The number of injured in Pakistan is estimated to be over 1600, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Rescue work is on but on a scale that does not match the enormity of the tragedy. Workers are scrambling to deliver aid to the victims in remote areas.
The initial quake struck at 2:09 pm on Monday and was followed by seven aftershocks, measuring as high as magnitude 4.8, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Thousands of people spent the night outdoors in near-freezing temperatures in the upper reaches, reluctant to go back inside for fear of aftershocks.
The quake collapsed buildings, triggered landslides and stampedes, prompting the Pakistani government to rush in Army personnel to help in rescue and relief work.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to Islamabad from his US tour, summoned a meeting to discuss relief efforts.
Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif flew to the worst affected areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to assess the situation.
“The army chief has landed at Corps Headquarters in Peshawar. Corps Commander (Peshawar Hidayat-ur-Rehman) has briefed him on damage assessment,” Director-General of Pakistan military’s media wing ISPR Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted.
“QRFs (Quick Rapid Forces) are busy in rescue work mainly in Malakand, Dir, Chitral and Bajaur while continuous damage assessment is under way,” Bajwa said.
A state of emergency has been declared in all government hospitals. The number of Military hospitals have also been increased across the country to accommodate the injured.
Several landslides have been reported in the mountainous areas of the country, leading to fears that the death toll may increase. According to the Army rescue teams, 27 of 45 landslides have already been cleared on the strategic Karakoram highway.
On Monday evening, PM Narendra Modi reached out to Pakistan and offered assistance in the wake of the crisis.
“Spoke to PM Nawaz Sharif & expressed condolences on the loss of lives due to the quake. Offered all possible assistance from India,” PM Modi tweeted on Monday.
In Afghanistan, over 90 people have been killed and over 300 people have been injured so far, according to local media reports. The toll is set to rise further.
“I demand all Afghans, my fellow countrymen, to help each other if they are in the affected areas. Also I ask every Afghan to provide accurate information on the casualties and damages so we can start managing help for those who need it,” appealed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday evening.
Not just India, US and Iran too offered to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that has wrecked its economy and infrastructure.
(With inputs from agencies)