By Munir Ahmed And Rahim Faiez
A magnitude 6.5 earthquake that struck much of Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan has killed at least 13 people and injured scores in both countries, officials said Wednesday as authorities struggled to collect data on casualties and damages from remote areas.
The temblor rattled this South Asian region late Tuesday, sending terrified residents fleeing from homes and offices. At least nine people died in Pakistan and four in Afghanistan.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the magnitude 6.5 quake was 40 kilometres south-southeast of the district of Jurm in Afghanistan’s mountainous Hindukush region, bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan. The quake struck 188 kilometres deep below the Earth’s surface, causing it to be felt over a wide area.
The disaster management authority in northwestern Pakistan said nine people died and 47 were injured in various parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Many were hurt when the roofs of their homes collapsed on them.
Sharafat Zaman Amar, a Taliban-appointed spokesman for the public health ministry, said the earthquake killed four people and injured 70 in Afghanistan. He said casualties and damages were reported from different provinces, Two people died in the northern Takhar province and one child died in the eastern Laghman province.
More than 200 panicked people were brought to hospitals in the Swat Valley and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in a state of shock. They were quickly discharged, Bilal Faizi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s emergency services told The Associated Press.
In Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, the tremors sent many people to the streets, some reciting verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book.
The scenes were repeated in Kabul and elsewhere in neighbouring Afghanistan. Last year in southeastern Afghanistan, a 6.1 magnitude quake struck a rugged, mountainous region, flattening stone and mud-brick homes. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers put the total death toll from that earthquake at 1,150, with hundreds more injured, while the U.N. later offered a lower estimate of 770.
On Wednesday, residents in Afghanistan said they had never felt such a strong quake before.
“We thought houses are collapsing on us, people were all shouting and were shocked,” said Shafiullah Azimi, a Kabul resident.
“This was first time I have experienced such powerful quake, everyone was terrified,” said another Kabul resident, Aziz Ahmad, 45, who stayed with his neighbours outside through the night. “We couldn’t dare to get back homes.”
In Peshawar, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa capital, residents also spoke of their fears. “I kept reciting verses from Quran and praying for the safety of all,” said Zar Bibi, a housewife in Peshawar.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said he asked disaster management officials to remain vigilant. In Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban government spokesman, tweeted that the Ministry of Public Health had ordered all health centers to be on standby.
The region is prone to violent seismic upheavals. A magnitude 7.6 quake in 2005 killed thousands of people in Pakistan and Kashmir.
Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar; Babar Dogar in Lahore and Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, contributed to this report.
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