Massive quake claims over 180 lives in Afghanistan, Pakistan
Kabul: A massive
earthquake rocked northeastern Afghanistan on Monday with devastating tremors
rippling across the region, leaving more than 180 dead amid collapsed
buildings, panicked stampedes and fears of landslides. Officials braced for
even more casualties.
The full extent of
damage and human toll was not immediately clear as rescue teams tried to assess
areas hardest hit by the quake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 7.5 and
was centered in a remote area of the Hindu Kush mountains.
Among the victims were
12 students at a girls’ school in northern Afghanistan who died in a frantic
dash from shaking buildings.
“They were not killed
by the collapse of the wall or rooms, but died trying to get out under the feet
of the others,” said Mohammad Dawood Agha, a senior police official in the
The bulk of the deaths
appeared to be in Pakistan, where officials said at least 145 people perished
and more than 950 were hurt, the Associated Press reported. Afghanistan
officials placed the death tally at about 33 several hours after the temblor.
But the collapse of
phone lines and cell phone networks prevented officials from getting details
from remote areas under the shadows of summits reaching more than 20,000 feet.
Rescue efforts also came to a crawl after nightfall, with temperatures falling
below freezing in some areas and darkened mountain roads too dangerous to
Previous major quakes
in the region have caused extensive deaths or injuries. The worries include
landslides on slopes soaked by recent rains.
unfortunately, speak of high material and human losses” in northern province
and the capital, Kabul, said Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah,
whose position is equivalent to prime minister in the power-sharing government.
In Pakistan’s scenic
northern Gilgit-Baltistan area, there were concerns of widespread damage.
Residents reported numerous landslides and avalanches during the quake. One man
photographed a huge chunk of rock and ice crashing down into the Hunza Valley,
which is surrounded on all sides by snow-capped mountains.
The US Geographical
Survey, which monitors earthquake patterns, put the quake’s preliminary
magnitude at 7.5 and placed its epicenter in the mountains of Badakhshan province,
about 160 miles northeast of Kabul near the Afghan-Pakistan border. The area,
known as Jurm, is believed to be relatively sparsely populated. It’s also a
district where the Taliban have a big presence and has engaged in battles with
Afghan security forces this year.
Meanwhile, the massive
earthquake in northeastern Afghanistan caused causalities across the southeast
Asian region. Reports of injuries and deaths in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan
are mounting in the aftermath of the 7.5-magnitude quake.
In a statement,
Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, said he had ordered the country’s
armed forces to start carrying out rescue operations “without caring or waiting
In Islamabad, the
earthquake was felt in two sharp, back-to-back jolts that lasted for about 30
seconds each. There were no immediate reports of damage in the Pakistani
capital, but terrified residents ran out in the streets when the shaking began.
The US Geological
Survey said seven other quakes of magnitude 7 or greater have occurred within
150 miles of Monday’s epicenter, the most recent in March 2002 just 12 miles
west of the latest quake zone. More than 150 people died in the 2002 quake.
In northern India,
tremors were felt throughout the region — most severely in the northern state
of Jammu and Kashmir, where widespread power and telephone outages were
reported. The national capital region temporarily suspended Metro service in
New Delhi as a precaution in the quake’s aftermath.
“I pray for everyone’s
safety,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in a Twitter message.
“I have asked for an urgent assessment and we
stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan &
Pakistan,” Modi said in his second tweet. The Indian military had responded in
force after the Nepal earthquake earlier this year, assisting with helicopter
rescue missions and providing humanitarian aid.