Pakistan Bible Society marketing officer Justus Nassir was visiting a Catholic priest in the main cathedral in Lahore on Monday when the powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake that ripped through Pakistan shook the church.
“Everything shook like we were sitting on waves in the ocean,” Mr Nassir said. “It was a terrible earthquake.
“So we got up and ran out of the church and gathered outside. The big cross on the church was waving like branches of a tree and the cross fell down.”
With communication lines severed, Mr Nassir was unable to get through to his wife and children by mobile phone to check on their welfare. Thankfully, despite the terror, his family were fine as also were all other staff, volunteers and partners of Pakistan Bible Society.
More than 390 people were killed and thousands of homes levelled when the quake hit rugged terrain in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday afternoon.
Tremors lasting more than two minutes were felt in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The quake also hit the cities of Lahore, Faisalabad and the mountainous region of Chitral.
The death toll included 12 schoolgirls in a northern Afghan town who died in a stampede as they tried to evacuate their school during the quake.
Mr Nassir said the earthquake was stronger than the devastating 2005 quake, although the loss of life was much lower because it hit the remote mountain regions.
“The winter season has started now, so most of the people have moved down from the mountains to the plain areas,” Mr Nassir said.
He said the affected area of Peshawar province was far from any locality where Pakistan Bible Society operates.
“The churches are safe, everyone is safe.”
Rescuers from the National Disaster Management Authority say they believe they have reached most of those affected by the earthquake, but thousands of desperate survivors face a race to rebuild before the full force of winter sets in during the second half of November.
Victims are already sleeping in sub-zero temperatures at night and survivors are particularly concerned for the welfare of their children.
Pakistan’s confirmed death toll so far stands at 272, with more than 1900 people injured and nearly 14,000 homes damaged.More