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Panic as major quake hits Pakistan

by Staff Writers
Quetta, Pakistan (AFP) Jan 19, 2011
A powerful earthquake rocked southwest Pakistan early Wednesday, sending panicked people rushing from their homes as the ground shook as far away as India and the Gulf.

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

Terrified residents in remote parts of thinly populated Baluchistan province described the panic as people fled their homes, reciting verses from the Koran and preparing for an aftershock.

"The quake jolted our homes, we rushed out in panic but it caused no damage," Waheed Murad told AFP from the town of Sibi.

"It was very cold. We spent about two hours outside our homes fearing that it may hit again but nothing happened," Gul Mohammad, a resident from the provincial capital Quetta, told AFP.

The quake damaged around 200 mud houses in and around Dalbandin, a provincial government official said, but there was no loss of life and the government has sent tents and blankets for those affected.

Buildings were also damaged in Kharan district of the province, close to the earthquake's epicentre, but no casualties were reported, Pakistan Meteorological Department chief Arif Mahmood told AFP.

"The magnitude of the earthquake was high, its epicentre was close to Kharan but the area is mostly desert and the population is thin," he said.

"Fortunately, there are no casualties and no serious damage to property," he added.

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

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

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

The initial bulletin from USGS said the earthquake hit just 10 kilometres 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 epicentre 55 kilometres northwest of Kharan.

"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."

In October 2005 a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck the country and killed more than 73,000 people, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and parts of the country's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan is still struggling to recover from devastating floods last year.

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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