A moderate 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook Islamabad, Rawalpindi and surrounding areas in Pakistan early Friday morning, sending tremors through the capital region but luckily resulting in no reported casualties or property damage.
The quake struck at around 5:30am local time and was centered about 16 kilometers deep in the earth, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department. Residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi reported feeling the shaking and many ran outdoors reciting prayers.
“It woke me up out of a deep sleep,” said Ahmed Khan, an Islamabad resident. “My bed was swaying back and forth gently for about 10 seconds. It was a scary feeling not knowing if it would get worse. I immediately checked on my family and we headed outside just to be safe.”
Other residents described similar experiences of being jolted awake by the rumbling and said they felt mild shaking for around 10-15 seconds. While frightening in the moment, the quake does not appear to have impacted buildings or infrastructure in the capital area.
Authorities said the epicenter was located just northwest of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, near the Kashmir region. Earthquakes are not uncommon in this seismically active area, though most are minor tremors that rarely cause damage. However, the unpredictable nature of seismic events means officials advise preparedness.
It is always wise to take earthquakes seriously and ensure you are prepared,” said Seismologist Dr. Ahmed Farooq. “Have an emergency plan, know evacuation routes, keep supplies handy and ensure your home is earthquake-safe. While this quake was moderate, the next could be much stronger.”
Pakistan’s capital region is home to over 4 million people and sits directly atop the boundary between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. When these massive slabs of the Earth’s crust grind and shift, it can unleash huge amounts of energy in the form of earthquakes.
The country has suffered several devastating quakes in recent decades, including a massive 7.6 magnitude temblor in 2005 that killed over 80,000 people and left millions homeless, mostly in the northern Kashmir region. A 1935 quake also inflicted severe damage in the northwest.
Experts say the frequency of quakes in the capital area and throughout Pakistan emphasizes the need to improve emergency response capabilities and enforce updated building codes. Many structures lack proper earthquake reinforcement.
Friday’s quake follows other recent seismic incidents around Pakistan. Last month a 3.3 magnitude tremor shook Gilgit and surrounding mountainous areas, again with no injuries or damage. In October, Karachi was rattled by a 3.1 magnitude quake centered near the port city.
The unpredictability of seismic events means vigilance is required. Preparedness steps like having emergency kits, knowing evacuation routes, securing furniture and appliances, and enforcing building codes can reduce risks when the ground inevitably shakes again.
While residents expressed relief this latest quake did not bring the devastation of Pakistan’s worst temblors, it serves as a reminder of the reality of living atop volatile tectonic plates and the need for readiness when – not if – the next big earthquake strikes.