Earthquake Hits Disputed Kashmir Region

Saturday, February 21st 2009, 8:09 am
By: News 9

(AP) A moderate 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit the Himalayan region of Kashmir on Friday, sending frightened residents running from their homes, but there were no immediate reports of deaths, officials said.

The Indian Meteorological Department said the temblor struck at 9:18 a.m. on Friday near Baramullah, a town near the de-facto border that divides Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

Officials in the Himalayan region said the quake caused panic but no major damage. In 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit the area, killing at least 78,000 people.

"We have been collecting reports from the area. There is no report of death or major damage so far," said Amir Ali, an official with the local disaster management committee on the Indian side.

Mohammed Yussef, a police officer in Baramullah, said some houses that suffered cracks in 2005 quake were further damaged. "The people all ran out into the streets. There is lots of panic," he said.

While there were no reports of casualties in the town, officials have not yet been able to make contact with more remote areas, he said.

The quake was felt in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and Pakistan's eastern Punjab province, said Fakhar Alam Khan, an official with the Pakistani meteorological office. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in Pakistan, he said, calling on people not to panic.

Pakistani regions bore the brunt of the 2005 quake.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, who have fought two of their three wars over the region. Both claim it in its entirety.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. )