Magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Islamabad, Pakistan

Yesterday, late in the evening, I got news of a magnitude 7.6 earthquake which happened in Islamabad. This is the same city I was vacationing in a couple of months ago and posted photos of here. Unfortunately, this is also the same city where some of my cousins, uncles, and aunts live. To make things even more exciting, my brother is currently visiting Islamabad.

To give everyone some background, Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan, and a relatively small city with a population under 1 million. Islamabad 'proper' covers about 85 square miles so it's pretty easy to get from one part of the city to another. The city is divided up into sectors, I-8, G-10, F-7, F-10, E-7, and so forth. The lettered sectors are arranged in rows, and then numbered in a matrix format. You can see a map which shows the layout here. The epicenter of the quake was at 34.43N, 73.54E, which is roughly 60 miles NNE of Islamabad. Due to the shallowness of the quake, the effects have been felt for hundreds of miles around the epicenter.

After I found out about the quake I tried to contact my brother in Islamabad via his cellular phone. The cellular network was pretty jammed up so I couldn't get through for about 45 minutes. I finally got through and was relieved to hear that my brother and the family were perfectly safe. My brother was in the F-7/4 sector when the quake hit, which is minutes driving distance from F-10 where the one of the Margalla Towers units collapsed. My brother said the quake seemed to last for almost a minute and was extremely startling. There are rumors of another building or condo unit which had some damage in the F-8 sector, but this is unconfirmed for now. There have been about 11 aftershocks ranging from 5.5 to 6.9. According to my brother, many people are either sleeping on the first floors of their houses, or not sleeping at all for now. The quake caused 2 small rooms at a factory in my village (over 120+ miles from Islamabad) to crumble, but luckily no one was hurt at all. Phone service, electricity, and cable tv services seem to be uninterrupted in Islamabad and in my village.

Initially we felt pretty lucky that such a strong quake did not cause a huge amount of damage. We thought the worst was the Margalla Towers building collapse, but now it looks the damages are many times that which we originally estimated. The hillside villages in Kashmir have been hit heavily with landslides and the latest estimates are 18,000+ casualties. We can only pray that this estimate is exaggerated. Although the quake was centered near Islamabad, the areas of Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, and Manshera seem to have sustained the most damage.

My brother should be back in Miami, FL on Monday as long as the Islamabad airport does not have any service interruptions. I've been told that the military and emergency personnel were able to get into the Islamabad areas extremely quickly. I'm not sure if that will be true for the more rural and hillside areas.

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