Monday, October 26, 2015 11:13 pm
A major earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast on Monday, killing more than 200 people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan, injuring hundreds and sending shock waves as far as New Delhi, officials said.
The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centred.
In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to flee their school building in Taloqan, just west of Badakhshan province where the tremor’s epicentre was located.
“They fell under the feet of other students,” said Abdul Razaq Zinda, provincial head of the Afghan National Disaster Management Agency, who reported heavy damage in Takhar.
Shockwaves were felt in New Delhi in northern India and across northern Pakistan, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them. No deaths were reported in India.
“We were very scared … We saw people leaving buildings, and we were remembering our God,” Pakistani journalist Zubair Khan said by telephone from the Swat Valley northwest of the capital Islamabad.
“I was in my car and, when I stopped my car, the car itself was shaking as if someone was pushing it back and forth.”
The United States and Iran were among countries that offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that have wrecked its economy and infrastructure.
The quake was 213 km (132 miles) deep and centred 254 km (158 miles) northeast of Kabul in Badakhshan province. The U.S. Geological Survey initially measured the magnitude at 7.7, then revised it down to 7.5.
Just over a decade ago, a 7.6 magnitude quake in another part of northern Pakistan killed about 75,000 people.
In Afghanistan, where rescue and relief work is likely to be complicated by security threats created by an escalating Taliban insurgency, more than 50 people were reported dead in several provinces including Badakhshan, where hundreds were killed in mudslides last year.
Hundreds of houses were destroyed, creating additional hardship with wintry temperatures setting in.
REMOTE AREAS CUT OFF
In Pakistan, the head of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Disaster Management Agency, Amer Afaq said the death toll had reached 167, while military spokesman General Asim Bajwa said nearly 1,000 were injured.
Officials said most of the casualties had occurred in northern and northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan and the death toll was likely to rise.
Dr. John Ebel, chairman of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston College in the United States, said the depth of the earthquake had limited its severity and meant damage was likely to be spread broadly rather than focused in one disaster zone.
But he said landslides on the unstable slopes of the mountainous region could pose a major problem to rescuers in the coming days.
Reported by Reuters