Earthquake Rattles India, Pakistan, Afghanistan

A strong quake shook a wide area of South and Central Asia on Sunday, killing at least one person, injuring several more, damaging buildings in the Afghan capital and sending people scrambling into the streets in five countries.

At least a dozen people were hospitalized with injuries and 26 houses in the capital of Kabul were badly damaged or destroyed, Kabul television reported.

In the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, six high school girls were injured when part of the first floor of stairs of the Alaei High School collapsed, local officials and witnesses said.

One man was pronounced dead at Kabul's Italian-run Emergency hospital, a hospital spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Four children received treatment at Kabul's Children's Health Hospital, said Nik Mohammad, a doctor on duty there.

In Pakistan, the government news agency said four people, including three children, were injured in the Peshawar area near the Afghan border.

The U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., measured the quake at magnitude 7.2 — enough to cause severe damage.

Pakistani and Indian seismologists measured it at 6.7. The USGS said the epicenter was about 150 miles northeast of Kabul in the Hindu Kush mountains.

The U.S. institute called the quake the strongest in the region since another 7.2 quake on Dec. 30, 1983. That quake killed 26 people — 14 in Pakistan and 12 in Afghanistan — and injured hundreds. Besides northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, it was felt in northern India and the then Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizia.

Referring to Sunday's quake, Bruce Presgrave, a geophysicist at the USGS, said that although it was big, the earthquake was also deep, and those "tend to cause less damage."

Earthquakes and seismic activity are common in this part of the world and particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains, though they are not usually felt over such a wide area. A 6.9-magnitude quake based in the same region on May 30, 1998, killed more than 5,000 people.

The late afternoon quake Sunday was felt in parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

In Kabul, residents of poor neighborhoods of mud, brick and wood homes fled into the streets with their children.

"The earthquake started slowly and got heavier and heavier. Then the wall crashed down," said Mohammed Khalil, a Kabul resident.

Nasid Ahmad, a Kabul merchant, said he rushed outside with his eight sons and daughters when the quake collapsed his roof. Bricks, dirt and a collapsed wooden stair case lay on the floor of what used to his living room.

In war shattered Kabul, it was difficult to ascertain which building were damaged because of the quake and which were victims of two decades of civil war. But residents said they saw dust rising into the air from buildings collapsing during the quake.

Pakistani authorities said the quake shook buildings in Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore near the Indian border.

In India, walls and electric poles shook in the capital New Delhi and in Amritsar in northern Punjab state, 250 miles away.

A duty officer with the Uzbek Emergencies Ministry said the quake was felt in the capital Tashkent although there was no damage.

In the Tajikistan capital Dushanbe, residents fled their apartments and milled about on the streets. A duty officer at Tajikistan's seismology center said the quake had a magnitude of 5 or 6 in Dushanbe.