On March 22, 2023, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake with its epicenter in Afghanistan hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, resulting in at least 10 deaths and 62 injuries. According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, 10 homes were completely destroyed and 55 were partially destroyed. The earthquake was primarily felt in northern parts of Pakistan, including Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Muzaffarabad, Peshawar, and others, while also jolting different cities in Punjab. Although no loss of life was immediately reported in Punjab, the quake created fear, and shocks were felt in various cities.
The earthquake was centred near Jurm town in northeastern Afghanistan, in the Hindukush region, and had a depth of 187 kilometers, according to the US Geological Survey. The Pakistan Meteorological Department reported the quake was of magnitude 6.8, whereas the USGS put it at 6.5. The earthquake also jolted the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan, where landslides caused fear, but no loss of life was reported.
Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel directed officials to put hospitals on high alert, asking the administration to prepare themselves to deal with any emergency. Cracks appeared in the Al-Janaat Mall in Rawalpindi and buildings in Islamabad’s Sector E-11, according to initial reports. Rescue 1122 officials were launching search and sweep operations across the province, according to a spokesperson for the Punjab Emergency Services.
Large parts of South Asia are seismically active due to the Indian plate pushing north into the Eurasian plate. In January 2023, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake jolted parts of Islamabad, and a 5.6 magnitude earthquake jolted a number of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s districts. In October 2005, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake jolted KP, along with Islamabad and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, killing over 100,000 people.
The current earthquake is among the intermediate ones, which are between 70km and 300km in depth. Shallow quakes are at depths of less than 70km and are the ones that have broader damage. The earthquake caused panic-stricken people, especially those living in high-rises, to rush out of their homes in Islamabad, reciting Kalma Tayyaba. Landslides damaged a cattle farm in Yasin Ghizer, resulting in the death of livestock, according to Rescue 1122.