Death toll hits 43 after huge Afghan quake

Death toll hits 43 after huge Afghan quake

A strong earthquake in northern Afghanistan has shaken buildings across South Asia, killing dozens of people and cutting power and communications.

The epicentre of the 7.5-magnitude earthquake was in the far northern province of Badakhshan, which borders Tajikistan and China, the United States Geological Survey said.

In Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, at least 12 students at a girls’ school were killed in a stampede as they fled shaking buildings, said an official spokesman. Another 30 girls were taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.

In Pakistan, at least 43 people have been killed. The total includes 21 deaths in various parts of the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where 200 others were injured.

Another official, Fiaz Khan, said at least eight people were killed and 70 injured in the Bajur tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

In Badakhshan itself, “there are reports of casualties and destruction” in some remote districts near the epicentre, said the provincial director of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority, Abdullah Humayoon Dehqan.

Police said dozens of houses had been destroyed in two remote and sparsely populated rural districts in Badakhshan, with some damage reported in Fayzabad.

Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah called an emergency meeting of the disaster management authority to assess the damage, his senior adviser Omar Samad tweeted.

Mr Abdullah later tweeted that the meeting would assess damage in one of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable regions.

Power was cut across much of the Afghan capital, where tremors were felt for around 45 seconds. Houses shook, walls cracked and cars rolled in the street.

In Pakistan the quake was felt across the country. In Islamabad, buildings shook and people poured into the streets in a panic, with many reciting verses from the Koran.

“I was praying when the massive earthquake rattled my home. I came out in a panic,” said Munir Anwar, a resident of Liaquat Pur in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, ordered troops to the quake-affected areas, the military said.

The quake was also felt in the Indian capital New Delhi, though no damage was immediately reported. Office buildings swayed and workers who had just returned from lunch ran out of buildings and gathered in the street or car parks.

In Srinagar, the main city in the India-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir, the tremors lasted at least 40 seconds, with buildings swaying and electrical wires swinging wildly, residents said.

“First I thought somebody had banged the door. But within seconds, the earth began shaking below my feet, and that’s when I ran out of the building,” said government official Naseer Ahmed.

People ran outside, shouting, crying and chanting religious hymns in an effort to keep calm. “I thought it was the end of the world,” shopkeeper Iqbal Bhat said.

Srinigar police inspector general Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani said there were no immediate reports of casualties, but that “some bridges and buildings have been damaged”, including a cracked highway overpass.

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