Jammu/Bhaderwah: An earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale struck the Bhaderwah-Bhalessa belt of Chenab Valley at 2:20 am on Wednesday followed by an aftershock of 2.7 magnitude at 2:43 am, officials said.
Later, three more aftershocks of low intensity were felt during the day at 9.35 am, 10.20 am and 11.43 am that not only triggered panic among the residents but also brought back fear psychosis of 2013 when entire Chenab Valley in general and Bhaderwah in particular was exposed to a series of earthquakes that continued to rock the hilly region for 70 days.
Cracks in dozens of residential and government buildings, which appeared after Tuesday's earthquake, further widened due to the fresh tremors in Bhaderwah and surrounding areas.
Raj Muhammad, a teacher at Chakka village in Bhaderwah, said, "I have taken a loan to build my house which has been totally damaged due to Tuesday's earthquake. As we cleared the debris last evening, the series of fresh tremors further widened the cracks. Now it's not safe to stay indoors. We are going through a bad situation due to increased fear as tremors continue. We need some help as my children and elderly parents can't remain in the open for long.”
Shakeela Begum, a 65-year-old resident of Nowabad in Bhaderwah, said, "We are afraid to enter our houses, which have become unsafe after the earthquake and aftershocks. This disaster has left us with nothing, as we had invested all our savings in building our home, which is now unusable."
Shakeela appealed to the government to provide compensation to them immediately.
Responding to the alarming situation, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Doda, Vishesh Paul Mahajan ordered the closure of all schools.
Assistant Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Bhaderwah, Dilmir Chowdhary, urged residents not to panic and advised them to take precautionary measures to avoid any untoward incidents.
Meanwhile, over 300 government schools in Kishtwar developed cracks in Kishtwar and 100 of them have become unsafe after Tuesday’s earthquake.
Following fresh tremors on Wednesday morning with epicenters at Gandoh in Doda and Bunjwah in Kishtwar, panic spread among the residents in the twin districts. People ran out of their homes in panic.
However, there was no report of any casualty in the fresh earthquake.
Huge damage to the property had been reported from across Kishtwar and Doda districts in Tuesday's earthquake.
Mostly, the buildings and houses have developed cracks.
The administration has engaged revenue officials in the field with Panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) members to prepare a list of such damaged structures.
“We have received information about cracks in over 300 government schools across Kishtwar. Mostly, these schools have been affected in the Drabshalla zone,” Chief Education Officer (CEO) Kishtwar, Prehlad Bhagat told Greater Kashmir.
“Over 100 schools, accounting for around 70 percent of schools, in the Drabshalla zone have become unsafe. Almost all the schools in this zone have developed cracks or have been damaged,” he said.
The administration has issued directions to the concerned department to prepare estimates and immediately start repair work.
Bhagat said that as fresh tremors hit the district Wednesday morning, they decided to close the schools for the day as a precautionary measure.
“The schools will open on Thursday as usual excluding those schools, which have become unsafe,” he said.
Bhagat said that they were waiting for reports from Marwah and other remote education zones, which have a poor communication network.
Meanwhile, an official statement issued here said that Deputy Commissioner (DC) Doda Vishesh Mahajan and SSP Doda Abdul Qayoom toured Sub Division Gandoh to ascertain the situation after Tuesday’s 5.4-magnitude earthquake.
They interacted with the people, visited buildings and houses, which have developed cracks due to the earthquake, and also took stock of preparedness by the sub divisional administration to face any challenge.
They visited Sinoo, Gujjar Basti, Kilothran, Kahara, and Sub Divisional Hospital Gandoh.
They directed the concerned authorities to assess the damages in the private houses and shift the families, if required, to safer places.
About the cracks developed in Sub District Hospital Gandoh and other government buildings including some schools, the DC said that he had directed the sub divisional authorities to undergo a safety audit of all the buildings and submit it for taking a further call in this regard.