A powerful earthquake has killed scores of people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan and officials expect the number of deaths to increase.
The death toll could continue to climb over the next few days due to communications being down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centred. There are more than 150 confirmed dead so far.
In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to flee their school building in the northeastern Afghan province of Takhar.
“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 as far as New Delhi in northern India and across northern Pakistan. 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.
“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 quake was 213 km (132 miles) deep and centred 254 km (158 miles) northeast of Kabul in Badakhshan province. The US Geological Survey initially measured the magnitude at 7.7, then revised it down to 7.5.
In 2005, a 7.6 magnitude quake in another part of northern Pakistan killed more than 80,000 people.
In Afghanistan, a total of 33 were reported dead and in Pakistan, 102 deaths were reported, most in northern and northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan.
Further south, the city of Peshawar reported two deaths but at least 150 injured people were being treated at the city’s main hospital, the provincial health chief said.
International aid agencies working in northern areas In Afghanistan reported that mobile phone coverage in the affected areas remained down in the hours after the initial quake.
“The problem is we just don’t know. A lot of the phone lines are still down,” said Scott Anderson, deputy head of office for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul.
Badakhshan provincial governor Shah Waliullah Adib said about 400 houses were destroyed but he had no figures on casualties.
“Right now we are collecting information,” he said.
The earthquake struck almost exactly six months after Nepal suffered its worst quake on record on April 25. Including the toll from a major aftershock in May, 9,000 people lost their lives and 900,000 homes were damaged or destroyed there.