At 8:50 a.m. on saturday, october 8, 2005, remote areas of northern Pakistan, north of Islamabad and neighboring Afghanistan, were hit by a major earthquake that caused catastrophic damage to a wide area, largely because of the inferior construction of buildings throughout the region. This earthquake killed more than 86,000 people and injured more than 69,000, leaving about 4 million homeless as the freezing cold of the Kashmir winter set in to the mountainous region. Worst hit was the Muzaffar-abad area in Kashmir, where 80 percent of the town was destroyed and more than 32,000 buildings collapsed. Numerous landslides and rock falls blocked mountain roads, so it took many days and even weeks for rescue workers to reach remote areas.
The earthquake was initiated by motion on a thrust fault with the epicenter at 16.2 miles (26 km) depth. The thrust fault is part of a system of faults that formed in response to the collision of India with Asia, forming the Himalayan, Karakoram, Pamir, and hindu Kush ranges. The indian plate is moving northward at 1.6 inches (4 cm) per year, and is being pushed beneath the Asian plate, forming the high mountains and Tibetan plateau. slip on a number of faults accommodates this plate motion and has formed a series of northwest-southeast striking-thrust faults in the Muzaffarabad area. These faults deform young Pleistocene alluvial fans into anticlinal ridges, showing that deformation in the region is active and intense, and the region is likely to suffer additional strong earthquakes.
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