More Than 100 Killed in Afghan Quake

A powerful earthquake sent a cliff tumbling onto a village in northern Afghanistan, crushing houses and killing at least 100 people, officials said Monday.

The 7.2-magnitude quake struck Sunday afternoon, rattling buildings across six countries of Central and South Asia. Dozens were injured in Afghanistan and Pakistan but early reports had put the death toll at only one -- in Kabul.

However, communications in northern Afghanistan are primitive and it can take days for reports to emerge.

Survivors in this remote community in the Hindu Kush mountains north of Kabul pointed to the sheered-off cliff that had roared down on their valley minutes after the earth stopped rocking. The landslide buried some 100 homes and blocked a river, causing flooding that swallowed hundreds of other homes.

"It was a big, savage sound, like a woman screaming," village elder Abdul Qodoos told The Associated Press.

He paused. There was another rumble. "That sound," he said, "is houses, falling into the river."

With rocks still tumbling down much of the scarred mountain face and floodwaters engulfing the valley, women and children were moved up river to steadier ground, leaving behind about 20 men.

The U.N. World Food Program, whose workers also reached the remote region Monday, put the death toll at 100 in the valley. Authorities in the city of Samangan, in the same province, reported two dead there.

Another seven were reported dead in the Takhar province city of Rustaq, farther to the north, said Sharif Ullah Khan, a spokesman in Kabul for the Uzbek militia commander in the distant province.

The quake was felt in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The U.S. Geological Survey called the quake the strongest in the region since another 7.2 quake on Dec. 30, 1983 killed 26 people -- 14 in Pakistan and 12 in Afghanistan.

On May 30, 1998, a 6.9-magnitude quake in the same region killed more than 5,000.

Early Monday, a moderately strong aftershock shook Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, the government-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Sunday's quake was deep in the earth -- making it widely felt, but less devastating than a shallower quake would be, the Geological Survey said.

Zow, one of at least two small villages, had lain vulnerable on a shelf between two 660-foot escarpments looming overhead.

"We all ran," Qodoos said. "Those people who could not get out of their houses were buried."

Villagers and WFP spokesman Khaled Mansour in Islamabad, capital of neighboring Pakistan, say some 100 houses were buried. The mosque was crushed as well, and the village cafe, with an unknown number of men inside it, villagers said.

Three hundred houses were inundated or collapsed as the blocked river flooded. Between 700 to 1,000 more homes were giving away to the water as night fell.

U.N. food agency workers were shipping in the first aid Monday -- 22 tons of food, from northern Afghanistan's largest city of Mazar-e-Sharif, 80 miles to the northwest, Mansour said.

A WFP-hired team was heading to the Salang Tunnel linking Afghanistan's north and south to clear a quake-triggered slide that was reported to have at least partially blocked the route, WFP spokeswoman Jennifer Abrahamson said in Kabul.

U.N. and Red Cross teams were in route to the northeast Monday to assess damage, said Nigel Fisher, the deputy special envoy for U.N. Secretary General Kofi-Annan.

Two C-130 cargo planes loaded with food and items such as blankets and medicine are on standby in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, if needed to provide emergency relief, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York.

The United Nations is also contact the Halo Trust, part of the U.N. Mine Action Program for Afghanistan, to obtain information on possible mine sites in the earthquake-affected area, he said.

"This is the newest in a series of devastating natural disasters to befall the long-suffering Afghan people, as they struggle to piece back their country and restart their shattered lives," Eckhard said.