Magnitude 5.8 quake shakes cities in eastern Punjab province and a portion of disputed Kashmir with all deaths reported from Mirpur district, officials say.

People gather near a damaged road after an earthquake of magnitude 5.8 in Mirpur, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, September 24, 2019.
People gather near a damaged road after an earthquake of magnitude 5.8 in Mirpur, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, September 24, 2019. (Reuters)

An earthquake shook northern Pakistan on Tuesday, destroying buildings, cracking roads, killing at least 22 people and injuring nearly 300 more, government and police officials said.

Photos and video carried by local media showed dozens of collapsed buildings and homes, uprooted trees and cracks in roads large enough to swallow cars in Mirpur, a town on Pakistan's side of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The magnitude 5.8 quake struck 23 km north of Jhelum, roughly 120 km southeast of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the United States Geological Survey reported.

District commissioner Mohammad Tayyab, a local government official, and district police chief Irfan Saleem said 22 people were dead.

Further away from the earthquake zone, the chief of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal, said at a briefing in the capital Islamabad that he could confirm 10 deaths.

'Devastating earthquake'

Muhammad Safdar, 60, who lives near Mirpur, said he was in his house when it suddenly started shaking.

"We saw walls and the roof developing cracks and ceiling fans and other articles falling down, and we rushed out into an open field," he told Reuters by telephone. "I have never seen such a devastating earthquake in this area in my life."

Ramzan Ahmad, 65, who suffered a head injury and bleeding nose, said that he was with his family of seven when his house collapsed.

"We all got injuries," he said. "I saw dozens of houses razed on my way to the hospital."

Army troops with aviation and medical support teams were dispatched, Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistan Armed Forces, said in a tweet.

Rescue operations would take a day or two, Afzal said, adding that the disaster authority was distributing blankets, tents and kitchen sets to affected people.

"There are people who are stuck there and who need immediate help," Raja Farooq Haider, prime minister of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir region, told GNN TV. 

"We are putting in all our resources to get people the best of our help."

Most damage was in an area between Jhelum and Mirpur, said Afzal.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan expresses deep concern over the damage caused by the earthquake and directs all departments to provide immediate assistance," the Pakistan government said in a tweet.

The tremors shook walls in Islamabad and forced people to rush outside. 

Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, while the Press Trust of India reported that people rushed out of their homes and offices in panic in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.

Pakistan President Arif Alvi in a statement expressed grief over losses caused by the quake.

Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

Over 340 people were killed in Awaran, a neglected area in Balochistan, on September 24, 2013 in a 7.8 magnitude temblor.

In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people, flattening buildings in rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.

The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir's Muzaffarabad area.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies