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    Earthquake in South Asia

    M 7.5 earthquake in Pakistan and India (also felt in eastern Afghanistan). The epicenter was northeast of Rawalpindi, so the quake was perfectly positioned to hit several densely populated metropolitan areas. Apparently, it was strong enough in New Delhi to knock things off tables–that’s pretty powerful.

    Of course, India and Pakistan both have huge populations anyway, but in cities you have the problem of multi-story buildings that may not be built to code as we would think of it in first world earthquake zones. It looks as if two apartment buildings have collapsed. The preliminary number of deaths is 30-ish; of those, CNN seems to be saying that about 20 were Indian Army personnel. I assume that means that some kind of military facility collapsed, but there appears to be little more information.

    A moment of black comedy was provided by one interviewee, a Western journalist who lives in Islamabad. He pointed out that one advantage Pakistan has is that it has a large army and thus was able to call on a high number of trained personnel for rescue. Being locked into mortal enmity with your next-door neighbor occasionally comes in handy, it seems. The same journalist–Danny Kemp of Agence France-Press; he’s cited here, too–said that he ran outside with his wife and daughter when their apartment building started shaking. Is that what they tell people to do in Pakistan? We’re told in Tokyo that avoiding falling glass, roof materials, and power lines is the highest priority; if you’re indoors, stay there unless the building is clearly unsafe.

    It’s impossible to predict what the final number of casualties will be. The area was relatively lucky, though: the quake struck early-ish on a weekend morning. That probably means that there weren’t many cooking fires open yet, and it definitely means that rescue workers had a full cycle of daylight and warm temperatures to look for trapped survivors after the first quake. (Strong aftershocks have been reported.)

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