Published December 03, 2015
More than 250 people were killed Monday after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit Afghanistan, rattling the country and sending tremors through neighboring Pakistan and India. Officials called it the strongest earthquake to strike Afghanistan in decades.
Pakistani officials said at least 228 people were killed and more than 1,000 others injured across the country, while Afghan officials said 33 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.
In Afghanistan's Takhar province, at least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they fled shaking buildings, said Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the provincial governor. Another 42 girls were taken to the hospital.
"I thought it was the end of the world."
The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake's epicenter was in the far northern Afghan province of Badakhshan, which borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China. USGS said the quake was 132.3 miles deep and 45 miles south of the Badakhshan capital, Fayzabad.
The province often suffers from earthquakes, floods, snowstorms and mudslides, and despite vast mineral deposits is one of Afghanistan's poorest regions. It has recently also been troubled by Taliban-led insurgents, who have used its remote valleys as cover to seize districts as they spread their footprint across the country.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a tweet Monday afternoon after the earthquake, saying: "I pray for everyone's safety." Modi also offered to help the victims in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Information Minister Pervez Rashid thanked India but said the country will not issue any appeals to the international community for aid, as it has the required resources to carry out the rescue and relief work.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone jumped to 121, according to a local official.
In Badakhshan, "there are reports of casualties and destruction" in some remote districts near the epicenter, said the provincial director of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority, Abdullah Humayoon Dehqan.
Badakhshan's deputy chief of police, Sakhi Dad Haidari, said dozens of houses had been destroyed in two remote and sparsely populated rural districts, with some damage reported in Fayzabad.
Power was cut across much of the Afghan capital of Kabul, where tremors were felt for around 45 seconds. Houses shook, walls cracked and cars rolled in the street. Officials in the capital could not be immediately reached as telephones appeared to be cut across the country.
Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah called an emergency meeting of the disaster management authority to assess the damage, his senior adviser Omar Samad tweeted.
In Pakistan, Zahid Rafiq, an official with the meteorological department, said the quake was felt across the country. In Islamabad, buildings shook and people poured into the streets in a panic, with many reciting verses from the Koran.
"I was praying when the massive earthquake rattled my home. I came out in a panic," said Munir Anwar, a resident of Liaquat Pur in the eastern Punjab province.
Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, ordered troops to the quake-affected areas, the military said in a statement. It gave no further details.
The quake was also felt in the Indian capital New Delhi, though no damage was immediately reported. Office buildings swayed and workers who had just returned from lunch ran out of buildings and gathered in the street or in parking lots.
In Srinagar, the main city in the India-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir, the tremors lasted at least 40 seconds, with buildings swaying and electrical wires swinging wildly, residents said.
"First I thought somebody had banged the door. But within seconds, the earth began shaking below my feet, and that's when I ran out of the building," said government official Naseer Ahmed.
People ran outside, shouting, crying and chanting religious hymns in an effort to keep calm. "I thought it was the end of the world," shopkeeper Iqbal Bhat said.
Srinigar police Inspector General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani said there were no immediate reports of casualties, but that "some bridges and buildings have been damaged," including a cracked highway overpass.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.