Peshawar: More than 230 people were killed after a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake which lasted nearly a minute shook Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday.

Thousands more were injured as the quake struck a swathe of the subcontinent, sending thousands of frightened people rushing into the streets across Afghanistan, Pakistan and north India. 

The epicentre was located near Jurm in Badakhshan province of the remote northeastern part of Afghanistan, 250 km from capital Kabul, in the Hindu Kush mountain range at a depth of 213.5 km, according to the US Geological Survey.

“Initial reports show a big loss of life, huge financial losses in Badakhshan, Takhar, Nangarhar, Kunar and other regions, including capital Kabul,” said Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. 

“Exact numbers are not known because phone lines are down and communication has been cut off in many areas,” Abdullah added. 

In Afghanistan, a total of 33 people were reported dead, including 12 girls who were killed in a stampede while trying to flee from their school in Takhar province, west of the epicentre. “They fell under the feet of other students,” said Abdul Razaq Zinda, provincial head of the Afghan National Disaster Management Agency.

Badakhshan provincial governor Shah Waliullah Adib said about 400 houses were destroyed but he had no figures on casualties. Traffic came to a halt in downtown Kabul, with frightened people getting out of their cars as they waited for the quake to stop. 

By early evening, 200 deaths were reported, most in northern and northwestern regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Particularly hard-hit was the northern area of Chitral, where 20 people were killed, police official Shah Jehan said. 

A journalist, Gul Hammad Farooqi (47), said: “I was thrown from one side of the road to the other by the strength of the earthquake. I’ve never experienced anything like it. There is a great deal of destruction here, and my house has collapsed, but thankfully my children and I escaped.”

Restaurants and office buildings emptied in Islamabad, with cracks appearing in some buildings.  “We were very scared ... We saw people leaving buildings, and we were remembering god,” Pakistani journalist Zubair Khan said by telephone from the Swat Valley, northwest of Islamabad.

Pakistan mobilised its troops and all military hospitals have been put on high alert, army spokesman Lt General Asim Bajwa said, adding that specialised earthquake rescue machinery and army helicopters were being readied for use. 

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