1935 Balochistan Earthquake PDF Print Email
Written by   

The 1935 Balochistan Earthquake (Urdu: بلوچستان زلزلہ) occurred on May 31, 1935 at 3:02am at Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan, then part of British India. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.7 Mw and anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 people died from the impact. This ranks as one of the deadliest earthquakes that hit South Asia. The quake was centred 4.0 kilometres South West of Ali Jaan, Balochistan, British India.

The earthquake

Quetta and its neighbouring towns lay in the most active seismic region of Pakistan atop the Chamman and Chiltan fault lines. A disturbance in the geological activity resulted in an earthquake early in the morning on 31 May 1935 estimated anywhere between the hours of 2:30 am and 3:40 am which lasted for three minutes with continuous aftershocks. Although there were no instruments good enough to precisely measure the magnitude of the earthquake, modern estimates cite the magnitude as being a minimum of 7.7 Mw and previous estimates of 8.1 Mw are now regarded as an overestimate. The epicentre of the quake was established to be 4-kilometres south-west of the town of Ali Jaan in Balochistan, some 153-kilometres away from Quetta in British India. The earthquake caused destruction in almost all the towns close to Quetta including the city itself and tremors were felt as far as Agra, now in India. The largest aftershock was later measured at 5.8 Mw occurring on 2 June 1935.[1] This however did not cause any damage in Quetta but the towns of Mastung, Maguchar and Kalat were seriously affected by this aftershock.


Most of the reported casualties occurred in the city of Quetta. Initial communique drafts issued by the Government estimated a total of 20,000 people buried under the rubble, 10,000 survivors and 4,000 injured. The city was badly damaged and was immediately prepared to be sealed under the military guard with medical advice. All the villages between Quetta and Kalat were destroyed and the British feared casualty to be of higher numbers in surrounding towns; it was later estimated to be no where close to the damage caused in Quetta.


From memorabilia of a member of the Royal Signals in 1935:
"For long-distance military work, we used large rhombic set-ups, with heights of 50 to 75 feet. For amateur work a single-wire horizontal, with the feed at three-sevenths of the total length, was used. As a matter of interest, during the Quetta earthquake of 1935, all civilian radio nets were destroyed, and all traffic was taken over by R.Signals stations. We did over 168 hours of frantic communications from D.I.K. to Quetta; sleeping on the floor next to the equipment."