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At least 12 killed in Afghanistan-Pakistan earthquake

KABUL (AFP) – At least 12 people were killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by a strong earthquake felt across thousands of kilometres (km), but the region appeared yesterday to have dodged mass casualties usually associated with a tremor of such scale.

The United States Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.5 quake was centred near Jurm in northeastern Afghanistan, but the depth of 187 km mitigated extensive damage.

The quake was felt from central Asia to New Delhi in India – over 2,000km away.

“It was a powerful earthquake and we feared maximum damage due to the intensity – that’s why we issued an alert,” a spokesman for Pakistan’s emergency Rescue 1122 service in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bilal Faizi said. “Fortunately our fears proved wrong. Residents panicked due to the magnitude, but the damage was minimal.”

The region is frequently hit by quakes – especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Rescue worker unload earthquake victims from an ambulance at a hospital in Saidu Sharif, a town in Pakistan’s Swat valley. PHOTO: AP

Officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, north of the Pakistan capital, said nine people had been killed in the quake, including two women and two children.

In Afghanistan, officials reported three dead and 44 injured – but phone and Internet links to remote parts of the country had been severed and communication patchy.

Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said health centres across the country had been put on high alert.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to be ready to deal with any emergency.

Last June, over 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands made homeless after a 5.9-magnitude quake – the deadliest in Afghanistan in nearly a quarter of a century – struck the impoverished province of Paktika.

Afghanistan is in the grips of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taleban takeover of the country in August 2021.

International development funding on which the South Asian country relied dried up after the takeover and assets held abroad were frozen.