A powerful earthquake has struck northern Afghanistan, with tremors felt in Pakistan and northern India. At least 51 people are said to have been killed in Pakistan, with 19 deaths reported in Afghanistan. The magnitude 7.5 quake was centred in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, 75km (46 miles) south of Faizabad, the US Geological Survey reported.
Buildings were evacuated in the capitals of all three countries and communications disrupted in many areas. In the Afghan province of Takhar, a stampede at a girls’ school triggered by the quake left 12 students dead, the provincial governor’s spokesman told the BBC. Another 25 students were injured, Sunnatullah Timour said.
Seven people have been reported killed and 71 injured in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. In Pakistan, 28 people have been killed in the northern tribal areas, another 20 the north-west and three more in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, officials told AFP news agency. In the city of Karimabad, in Gilgit-Baltistan, a witness who gave his name as Anas told the BBC that the quake had sent a landslide crashing into the Hunza river.
“At first it was as if someone was shaking us. There were about 20 of us and we just held on to each other,” he said. “Right after that we saw a major landslide. Some people say it was a glacier that came down, some people say it was a hill. It fell right in front of our eyes.” Officials said the quake happened at a depth of 212km. The magnitude was initially put at 7.7 but later downgraded.
An aftershock measured at 4.8 magnitude struck shortly afterwards. People in the Indian capital Delhi ran into the streets after the tremor struck, and schools and offices were evacuated. The Delhi metro was also briefly halted. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he had ordered an urgent assessment of any damage.
“We stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. Catherine Bhatti, from Durham in the UK, was visiting relatives in Sarghoda, Pakistan, when the quake struck. “It came out of the blue, everything started to move slightly then it became stronger. We made our way downstairs and gathered outside on the lawn,” she told the BBC.
“My in-laws, who have lived here all their lives, say they have never experienced anything like this before.” The region has a history of powerful earthquakes caused by the northward collision of India with central Asia. In 2005, a magnitude 7.6 quake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir left more than 75,000 people dead.
In April this year, Nepal suffered its worst earthquake on record with 9,000 people killed and about 900,000 homes damaged or destroyed.