Over 180 dead as rescuers brace for more casualties, landslides and avalanches in north Pakistan
KABUL/ PESHAWAR, Oct 26: A massive earthquake rocked northeastern Afghanistan on Monday with devastating tremors rippling across the region, leaving more than 175 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 prelimiry 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 Takhar province.
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. Previous major quakes in the region have caused extensive deaths or injuries. The worries include landslides on slopes soaked by recent rains.
"Initial reports, unfortutely, 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-Baltisan 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 U.S. Geographical Survey , which monitors earthquake patterns, put the quake's prelimiry 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.
Adeeb said more than 1,400 houses have been partially destroyed in his province, including 70 in one village.
"One of the scariest experiences," tweeted Bilal Sarwary, a freelance Afghan jourlist. "Was stuck inside a building during this massive earthquake."
Afghanistan has long been prone to earthquakes. The last major one struck the tion in March 2002 in Baghlan Province in the north, where more than 1,500 people died. In remote mountainous areas, such has Badakhshan, most Afghans live in mud houses that easily crumble during large quakes. Landslides are also quite common, and in recent weeks there has been much rainfall in the region, exacerbating the impact of an earthquake.