The Kashmir earthquake took place shortly after 8:50 a.m. local time and was centered about 12 miles northeast of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. (Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought a series of wars for control of Kashmir. Today, the two nations, along with China, each administer a portion of the region.)
Kashmir is located at the juncture of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates—the collision of which caused the formation of the Himalaya Mountains—making it prone to intense seismic activity. The 2005 earthquake was among the worst to ever hit the region. It caused extensive destruction in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province; the western and southern regions of the Kashmir Valley, part of India-administered Kashmir; and northern Pakistan. Damage also was reported in northern India and Afghanistan.
In some places, whole sections of towns slid off cliffs and entire families were killed. The Muzaffarabad area suffered severe devastation, and the town of Balakot in the North-West Frontier Province was almost completely destroyed. The quake occurred just before the onset of the region’s harsh winter, exacerbating the disaster’s effects. In addition, landslides wiped out large numbers of the region’s roads, making many of the damaged areas inaccessible to relief workers in the immediate aftermath. In all, more than 80,000 people died as a result of the quake and an estimated 4 million others were left homeless.