KABUL — A magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 83 people there and in neighboring Pakistan and flattening hundreds of buildings.
“More [deaths] are expected,” the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Chief Minister, Pervez Khattak, told state TV about three hours after the incident. At least 48 deaths were confirmed in his country, along with 554 injuries.
The victims also included around 12 girls who died while trying to flee their school in Afghanistan, an official told NBC News — with some of them crushed in a stampede. Some 23 more deaths were confirmed elsewhere in addition to 270 injuries.
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 temblor struck at around 2:10 p.m. (5:10 a.m. ET) and occurred in remote area of the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan around 28 miles south-southwest of Jarm, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency later revised its magnitude from a preliminary 7.7 to 7.5.
Witnesses reported a series of aftershocks.
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.
“I just felt it go up and down as if I was on a New York subway on a really rough ride,” said NBC News producer Wajahat S. Khan, who was in a hotel in Lahore at the time of the quake. “Everything was moving up and down. My lunch on the table was literally just popping up and down.”
Khan added: “The scenes downstairs were really, really chaotic. The panic continued and lasted for a good four or five minutes after the quake.”
NBC News producer Mushtaq Yusufzai was eating with his family in Peshawar when the earthquake struck.
“There was no was way to go downstairs so we immediately climbed to the rooftop.
“It seemed the entire building was going to collapse. Women and children were crying and traffic was stopped on roads,” he said.
At least 55 people were injured in Peshawar, officials said. Some were listed in critical condition.
The country’s Supreme Court in Islamabad was in a televised session and judges, lawyers and complainants were shown running out of the room.
Initial reports indicated that at least 400 homes were destroyed or partly destroyed throughout Badakhshan, where the quake’s epicenter was located.
That figure included at least 70 in the village of Charmaghz Daram, according to police chief Gen. Gulam Sakhi.
“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,” he told NBC News.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said the country’s disaster management authority was still trying to gauge the damage.
In the Afghan capital of Kabul, cars stopped in the streets and screaming residents streamed out of homes, offices and schools. Widespread power outages and telephone cuts were reported.
The quake was also felt in Indian cities including Srinagar, which is located almost 300 miles away.
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.
SOURCE: NBC News