7 killed, 30 injured in northern Afghanistan quake

KABUL (AP) — A magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in mountains north of Afghanistan's capital early Monday, killing at least seven people and injuring 30, officials said.

The temblor hit just before 1 a.m. (2030 GMT Sunday) in Samangan province, about halfway between Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, according to the province's deputy governor, Kulam Sakhi Baghlani.

Roads and communications are sparse in the area, and casualty reports take time to reach authorities. The quake was felt in Kabul as well as the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Baghlani said three districts of scattered mud-walled villages were affected, with more than 300 homes damaged and dozens of head of livestock killed. Landslides sparked by the quake had blocked roads, making even more arduous what was already an eight-hour drive along winding mountain trails from the provincial capital of Aybak.

"The quake would have been felt much more intensely up in the mountains," Baghlani said. He said three civil defense units had been dispatched to check on the damage and casualties.

The Hindu Kush region is capable of producing large earthquakes along faultlines where India slammed against the Asian continent millions of years ago.

In 1998, a pair of quakes measuring 5.9 and 6.6 struck along Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan, killing more than 6,000 people. A 5.3 quake that hit Baghlan province next to Samangan in 2002 killed about 1,000 people.