Friday 19 January 2018

Earthquake in Afghanistan kills over 200

Afghan school girls are treated at a hospital after an earthquake in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghan school girls are treated at a hospital after an earthquake in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Abdullah Abdullah

Mohammad Zubair Khan in Islamabad

Twelve girls who died in a stampede while trying to escape from their school were among at least 200 killed after a massive quake rocked north-east Afghanistan.

The powerful quake shook buildings from Kabul to Delhi, cut power and communications in some areas and caused more than 200 deaths, mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The earthquake registered at a 7.5 magnitude. Tremors were also reported in India.

A spokesman from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said two aftershocks had been recorded so far, with magnitudes of 4.5 and 5.3.

Pakistani officials said that at least 147 people were killed and nearly 600 others wounded across the country, while Afghan officials said 33 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.

It was anticipated that the death toll would rise. Many of the worst-hit regions are remote and communication systems were destroyed so the full impact and scale of the disaster cannot yet be fully assessed.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was in the Hindu Kush mountains, in the sparsely populated province of Badakhshan, which borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.

It said the epicentre was 213km deep and 73km south of the provincial capital, Fayzabad.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani sent his condolences to families who lost relatives and property and appointed an "assessment committee" to ensure emergency relief reached the needy as soon as possible.

In Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, 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.

A further 42 girls were taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.

In Pakistan, the death toll in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone was 121.

The toll from Afghanistan's Badakhshan province was likely to rise as reports came in from remote areas. The province is often struck by earthquakes, but casualty figures are usually low.

Power was cut across much of the Afghan capital, where tremors were felt for around 45 seconds. Houses shook, walls cracked and cars rolled in the streets.

Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted that the earthquake was the strongest felt in recent decades.

He instructed doctors and hospitals to be prepared to receive and treat casualties.

Abdullah said telecommunications have been disrupted in vast parts of the country, preventing officials from getting a precise picture.

In Pakistan, Zahid Rafiq, an official with the meteorological department, said the quake was felt across the country. In the capital, Islamabad, buildings shook and panicked people poured into the streets, many reciting verses from the Quran.

"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 Pakistan's 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.

Srinagar Police Inspector General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani said that "some bridges and buildings have been damaged", including a cracked highway overpass.

Two elderly women died from heart attacks suffered during the earthquake, including a 65-year-old woman in the northern Kashmiri town of Baramulla and an 80-year-old in the southern town of Bijbehara, officials said.

Irish Independent

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