A major earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast on Monday, killing more than 200 people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan, injuring hundreds and sending shock waves as far as New Delhi, officials said.
The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centered.
In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to flee their school building in Taloqan, just west of Badakhshan province where the tremor's epicenter was located.
"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.
Shockwaves were felt in New Delhi in northern India and across northern Pakistan, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them. No deaths were reported in India.[PHOTOS, VIDEOS]
Tremors were also felt in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and other regions in Pakistan. Reports of deaths are pouring in from the different areas of both countries, Reuters reported.
Shockwaves were felt in northern India and in Pakistan, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them.
"We were very scared ... We saw people leaving buildings, and we were remembering our God," Pakistani journalist Zubair Khan said by telephone from the Swat Valley northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
"I was in my car, and when I stopped my car, the car itself was shaking as if someone was pushing it back and forth."
The quake was 213 km (132 miles) deep and centered 254 km (158 miles) northeast of Kabul in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province. The U.S. Geological Survey initially measured the quake's intensity at 7.7 then revised it down to 7.5.
Hardest hit in Pakistan was the northern province of Chitral, where 11 people were killed, Chitral police official Shah Jehan said.
"We are not able to contact people in remote areas due to telephone lines being down, so there are chances that the death toll could rise," Jehan said.
Further south, the city of Peshawar had one death but at least 150 injured people were being treated at the city's main hospital, the provincial health chief said.
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 U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 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.
A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck northern Pakistan just over a decade ago, on Oct. 8, 2005, killing about 75,000 people.
- Nearly 70 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- 12 schoolgirls were killed in an Afghan school in a stampede during the earthquake. The students were trying to run out of the building during the tremors in Afghanistan's Takhar province.
- According to some posts on Twitter, the tremors were felt as far up to Dubai.
- Army hospitals in Pakistan have been put on high alert and troops have been mobilized for rescue operations.
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to say that he has asked for an assessment of the earthquake and is ready to extend help to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Heard about strong earthquake in Afghanistan-Pakistan region whose tremors have been felt in parts of India. I pray for everyone's safety.
â€” Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015
I have asked for an urgent assessment and we stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan & Pakistan. â€” Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015
- This video shows the moments during the tremors in north India.
- A school building has collapsed in Sargodha, Pakistan after the earthquake. Many are injured.
- Phone lines in Srinagar have been disrupted due to the earthquake.
- The Delhi metro services have been halted following the tremors.
- Some buildings in Delhi reportedly shook during the earthquake. Many buildings have been evacuated.
- Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister tweeted about the massive shocks felt in north India.
First time I've rushed out after the earthquake of 2005.
â€” Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) October 26, 2015