The devastating earthquake that shook northern Pakistan on Monday originated from northeast Afghanistan where it killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds others, sending shockwaves as far as New Delhi, officials said.
The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centered.
In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to flee their school building in Taloqan, just west of Badakhshan province where the tremor’s epicentre was located.
“They fell under the feet of other students,” said Abdul Razaq Zinda, provincial head of the Afghan National Disaster Management Agency, who reported heavy damage in Takhar.
Shockwaves were felt in New Delhi in northern India, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them.
The United States and Iran were among countries that offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that have wrecked its economy and infrastructure.
The quake was 213km deep and centered 254km northeast of Kabul in Badakhshan province. The US Geological Survey initially measured the magnitude at 7.7, then revised it down to 7.5.
In Afghanistan, where rescue and relief work is likely to be complicated by security threats, more than 50 people were reported dead in several provinces including Badakhshan, where hundreds were killed in mudslides last year. Hundreds of houses were destroyed, creating additional hardship with wintry temperatures setting in. In Afghanistan, international aid agencies working in northern areas reported that cell phone coverage in the affected areas remained down in the hours after the initial quake.
“The problem is we just don’t know. A lot of the phone lines are still down,” said Scott Anderson, deputy head of office for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul. Badakhshan provincial governor Waliullah Adib said about 1,450 houses had been destroyed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2015.