The death toll continues to rise on Monday after a 7.5 earthquake hit northeastern Afghanistan killing more than 150 people there as well as in neighboring Pakistan, and demolished thousands of buildings. Pakistani Chief Minister of Khyber Province confirmed the deaths of at least 123 including 12 girls who were fleeing their school in Afghanistan. 23 more deaths were confirmed later Monday. Landslides were reported and some of the affected regions could not immediately be contacted, authorities said. The quake came just days after rain fell in many parts of Afghanistan, potentially making mud-built dwellings vulnerable.
The quake struck 5 a.m. eastern time and occurred in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. The United States Geological Survey reduced the magnitude from a preliminary 7.7 to a 7.5. The earthquake was widely felt in neighboring Pakistan, where the government declared an emergency in some areas. The country’s army put all non-combat units on standby. The country’s Supreme Court in Islamabad was in a televised session and judges, lawyers and complainants were shown running out of the room. NBC News producer Wajahat S. Khan felt the quake in Lahore.
I just felt it go up and down as if I was on a New York subway on a really rough ride,” “Everything was moving up and down. My lunch on the table was literally just popping up and down.”
Badakhshan provincial Governor Shalid Waliullah Adeeb called this the most powerful earthquake ever witnessed.
This was the most powerful earthquake we have witnessed,” “It happened while there was heavy rain and hailstorm in parts of the province … but many homes have been destroyed and the death toll could be higher as we are trying to reach to the remote areas.”
Devastating earthquakes are relatively common in the mountainous and seismically-active region. A 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 75,000 people when it hit northern Pakistan on Oct. 8, 2005. India’s President Narendra Modi has offered their assistance even willing to help in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is cutting short a visit abroad and returning home.
Pakistan Geological Survey head Imran Khan told the BBC there were reports of landslides disrupting the Karakoram highway between Gilgit and Baltistan. However, he said it was too early to say if any glaciers were destabilized by the quake. In April this year, Nepal suffered its worst earthquake on record with 9,000 people killed and about 900,000 homes damaged or destroyed.