Earthquake devastates Pakistan and Afghanistan

An Afghan man removes rubble from the roof of his house following the powerful earthquake in Kabul this weekend. Picture: Getty

An Afghan man removes rubble from the roof of his house following the powerful earthquake in Kabul this weekend. Picture: Getty

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A strong earthquake in northern Afghanistan shook buildings from Kabul to Delhi, cut power and communications in some areas and caused more than 150 deaths, mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistani officials said that at least 147 people were killed and nearly 600 others wounded across the country, while Afghan officials said 33 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the 7.5-magnitude earthquake was in the Hindu Kush mountains, in the sparsely populated province of Badakhshan, which borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China. It said the epicentre was 130 miles deep and 45 miles south of the provincial capital, Fayzabad.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sent his condolences to families who had lost relatives and property, and appointed an “assessment committee” to ensure emergency relief reached the needy as soon as possible, his office said.

In Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, at least 12 students at a girls’ school were killed in a stampede as they fled shaking buildings, said Sonatullah Taimor, spokesman for the provincial governor. Another 42 girls were taken to the hospital in provincial capital Taluqan.

In Pakistan, Inayatullah Khan, the provincial minister for local bodies, said the death toll in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone had jumped to 121.

The toll from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province was likely to rise as reports came in from remote areas. The province is often struck by earthquakes, but casualty figures are usually low.

The province also suffers from floods, snowstorms and mudslides, and despite vast mineral deposits is one of Afghanistan’s poorest regions. It has recently also been troubled by Taleban-led insurgents, who have used its remote valleys as cover to seize districts as they spread their footprint across the country.

Power was cut across much of the Afghan capital, where tremors were felt for around 45 seconds. Houses shook, walls cracked and cars rolled in the streets. Officials in the capital could not be immediately reached as telephones appeared to be cut across the country.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted that the earthquake was the strongest felt in recent decades. He had earlier called an emergency meeting of disaster officials, which was broadcast live on TV.

Abdullah said telecommunications have been disrupted in vast parts of the country, preventing officials from getting a precise picture of damage and casualties.

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