Three shallow quakes struck near the city of Nawabshah in Sindh province in the space of an hour starting at 2:51 am, sending frightened residents running into the streets praying for their lives.
The most powerful tremor was measured at 5.0 magnitude, an official in the meteorological department told AFP. An emergency was declared at the city's hospitals and district offices, with schools and colleges closed down, he said. Around 100 houses in Nawabshah were damaged.
Work was under way to assess the extent of the damage caused by the quakes, which were also felt in several nearby small towns including Sakrand, Daur, Daulat Pur and Bandhi. Asif Arain, a Nawabshah resident, said: "The shaking woke us and we ran out of home reciting verses from the Koran."Then we felt another jolt, that was even more terrifying. I felt sick."
A local administration official, Irfan Kathio, told AFP that at least one person had died and 30 others were injured, including women and children."We received 30 injured in our hospital, of whom one 71-year-old man died of his injuries," said Mohammad Hashim, a senior doctor at civil hospital. He said the condition of five of the injured was critical. Taj Colony neighbourhood was the worst affected, resident Ghulam Mustafa told AFP.
The roofs of many of the houses there had crumbled, he said, with electricity supplies to the area disrupted. The quake was followed by two aftershocks measuring 4.7 and 4.9 magnitude with epicentres northeast and northwest of Nawabshah, the meteorology official said. The US Geological Survey measured the three quakes at magnitudes 4.5, 4.3 and 4.6.
The quakes all struck at a relatively shallow depth of around 15 kilometres (9.5 miles). Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.
A devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Azad Jammu Kashmir in October 2005, killing more than 73,000 people and leaving around 3.5 million homeless. Last September a 7.7-magnitude hit Awaran district in southwestern Baluchistan province, killing at least 376 people and leaving 100,000 others homeless.