Massive earthquake shakes South Asia, 24 killed in Afghanistan

KABUL: A powerful earthquake struck a remote area of Afghanistan on Monday, shaking the capital Kabul and killing at least 24 people, including 12 schoolgirls, seven people in the eastern province of Nangarhar, two in Nuristan province in the northeast and three in eastern Kunar province, officials said.


The epicentre of the earthquake was near Jurm in northeast Afghanistan, 250 kilometres from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213.5 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The US Geological Survey initially measured the quake’s intensity at 7.7 then revised it down to 7.5.

Pakistan was worst-hit in the aftermath of the quake, with over 130 people dead and scores injured.

The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range area where the quake was centred.

Afghanistan’s CEO Abdullah Abdullah said reports of damage and injuries were coming in from Afghanistan’s northeast.

“Disasters authorities to meet within the hour and respond to the needs,” he tweeted.

In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to get out of their school 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.

Traffic came to a stop in downtown Kabul, with people getting out of their cars as they waited for the quake to pass.

In Afghanistan, international aid agencies working in northern areas reported that cell 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 UN 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.

The mountainous region is seismically active, with earthquakes the result of the Indian subcontinent driving into and under the Eurasian landmass. Sudden tectonic shifts can cause enormous and destructive releases of energy.

As buildings shook throughout northern India, hundreds of people poured onto the streets from office blocks, hospitals and and homes, AFP reporters and TV footage showed.

Delhi’s metro ground to a halt during the tremor although the airport continued operating.

“All of around 190 trains plying on the tracks were stopped at the time of the earthquake. The lines and the trains are now being restored after basic inspection of respective lines,” Anuj Dayal, Delhi Metro spokesman told AFP.

An 80-year-old woman died of a heart attack in in the southern town of Bijbehara in India-held Kashmir, officials said, while two Indian army soldiers were injured when a sentry post collapsed on them in the in the town of Sopore, police officer Imtiyaz Hussain said.

Cell phone networks were down in the Kashmir region.

The earthquake jolts were not felt in Nepal where two quakes had killed more than 8,900 people, triggered landslides and destroyed half a million homes in April and May this year.