On Saturday, 8 October 2005, a massive earthquake shook cities and villages across northern Pakistan and parts of India and Afghanistan. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck at 11.50am (Singapore Time) and was centred in forest-clad mountains of Pakistani Kashmir, near the Indian border, about 100 km north of Islamabad. A series of aftershocks, including one of 6.3 in magnitude and four at more than 5.4 occurred following the main rumble.
The main areas affected were Kashmir and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. The earthquake caused substantial damages with buildings collapsing in many Pakistani cities and many towns and villages were completely destroyed.
In Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, 11,000 people died including hundreds of children who were buried when school buildings collapsed. The death toll resulting from this earthquake soared above 42,000 and with over 60,000 people injured. Nearly 3 million people were left homeless and are living in tents or in the open amid freezing temperatures.
SCDF deployed an overseas contingent to northern Pakistan under Operation Lion Heart to assist the local government in urban search and rescue operations. During the 12-day deployment in Pakistan, the SCDF contingent operated under the umbrella of the Pakistani military as well as the UN On-Site Operations Command Centre. The mainstay of the Singapore team’s efforts lay in the provision of medical aid at a central Muzaffarabad base hospital as well as the heli-evacuation of the quake victims in surrounding towns. In total, nearly 500 casualties were treated by SCDF and Red Cross personnel during their operation in Muzaffarabad.
Other operations included the extrication of the body of a dead man trapped by rubble and steel pipes at the collapsed 4-storey Neelum View Hotel in Muzaffarabad city, as well as the rescue of an infirmed 80-year-old woman who was stranded on a steep mountain. Operations in Muzaffarabad came to a close on 18 October after focus shifted from short-term relief operations to long term recovery work by humanitarian agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
MAJ Yap Kok Boon, commander of the SCDF rescue contingent, represented the Singapore government to present a US$100,000 relief package (comprising blankets, groundsheets, tents, sleeping bags, sweaters, medical and food supplies) to the Pakistani government before the team departed for Singapore on 19 October.