11 dead in strong earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD — A magnitude 6.5 quake rocked much of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday, causing residents to flee their homes and offices in panic and frightening people in remote villages. At least 11 people have died in two countries.

More than 100 people were taken to hospitals in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in a state of shock, Pakistani emergency services spokesman Bilal Faizi told The Associated Press.

“These terrified people collapsed, and some of them collapsed due to the impact of the earthquake,” he said. Faizi said most of them were later released from the hospital.

Faizi and other officials said nine people had died as a result of roof collapses in various parts of northwestern Pakistan. Dozens of others were injured in the earthquake, which struck Afghanistan and was also felt along the border with Tajikistan. The earthquake triggered landslides in some mountainous areas, disrupting traffic.

Taimoor Khan, a spokesman for the provincial disaster management authority for the northwest, said at least 19 mud-brick houses had collapsed in outlying areas. “We are still gathering damage data,” he said.

Due to the strong tremors, many people fled their homes and offices in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, some of them reciting verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book. According to media reports, cracks appeared in some apartment buildings in the city.

In Afghanistan, Sharafat Zaman Amar, the Taliban’s designated health ministry spokesman, said at least two people have died and about 20 injured so far in the Afghan earthquake.

Zaman Amar said: “Unfortunately, there could be more casualties, as the earthquake was so strong that in most parts of the country, all hospitals and medical institutions are ready to save people’s lives,” he added.

The scene was repeated in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.

“The earthquake was so strong and terrifying that we thought that houses were collapsing on us, all the people were screaming and were in shock,” said Shafiullah Azimi, a resident of Kabul.

Aziz Ahmad, 45, another Kabul resident, said: “This is the first time I’ve experienced such a strong earthquake in my life, everyone was terrified.” He added that he and all his neighbors did not leave their homes for hours, fearing aftershocks. “We didn’t dare to go home.”

The USGS said the 6.5 magnitude quake’s epicenter was 40 kilometers (25 miles) south-southeast of Yurma in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountainous region bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan. The earthquake occurred 188 kilometers (116 miles) below the Earth’s surface, causing it to be felt over a large area.

Doctor Rahshinda Tausid was at her hospital in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore when the earthquake struck. “I quickly asked the patients to move to a safer place,” she said.

Khurram Shahzad, a resident of the Pakistani garrison town of Rawalpindi, said he was having lunch with his family at a restaurant when the walls began to sway.

“I quickly thought it was a big one and we left the restaurant and walked out,” he told The Associated Press by phone. He said he saw hundreds of people standing in the streets.

A similar situation was in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan, where people were seen standing outside their homes and offices.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said in a statement that he had asked disaster management officials to remain vigilant to deal with any situation.

Zabiullah Mujahid, the top Taliban government spokesman in Afghanistan, tweeted that the health ministry has ordered all medical centers to go on standby.

The area is subject to strong seismic shocks. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake in 2005 killed thousands of people in Pakistan and Kashmir.

Last year, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Afghanistan in rugged mountainous terrain, destroying stone and mud-brick houses. The Afghan Taliban rulers put the total death toll from the quake at 1,150, with hundreds injured, while the UN offered a lower estimate of 770.


Associated Press contributors Raheem Fayez in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, and Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan contributed to this report.

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