ISLAMABAD – A 6.5-magnitude earthquake shook large parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday, forcing panic-stricken residents to flee homes and offices and scaring people even in remote villages. At least nine people died.
More than 100 people were taken to hospitals in the Swat Valley region of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in shock, Bilal Faizi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s emergency services, told the Associated Press.
“These terrified people collapsed, and some of them collapsed from the shock of the earthquake,” he said. Faizi said most were later released from hospital.
Faizi and other officials said nine people were killed when roofs collapsed in various parts of northwestern Pakistan. Dozens of other people were injured in the earthquake, which was centered in Afghanistan and also felt on the border with Tajikistan. The earthquake caused landslides in some mountainous areas, disrupting traffic.
Taimoor Khan, a spokesman for the provincial disaster management authority in the northwest, said at least 19 mud-brick houses had collapsed in remote areas. “We’re still collecting damage data,” he said.
The powerful tremors prompted many people to flee their homes and offices in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, some reciting verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book. Media reports suggested that cracks had appeared in some apartment buildings in the city.
The scene was repeated in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
“The earthquake was so strong and terrifying, we thought houses were collapsing on us, people were screaming and in shock,” said Shafiullah Azimi, a Kabul resident.
The US Geological Survey said the center of the 6.5-magnitude earthquake was 40 kilometers (25 miles) south-southeast of Jurm in Afghanistan’s Hindukush mountain region, bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan. . He said the depth of the earthquake was 187.6 kilometers (116 miles).
Rakhshinda Tauseed, a doctor, said he was at his hospital in the east Pakistan city of Lahore when the earthquake struck. “I immediately asked patients to move to a safer place,” she said.
Khurram Shahzad, a resident of Pakistan’s garrison town of Rawalpindi, said he was having dinner with his family at a restaurant when the walls started shaking.
“I immediately thought it was a big deal, and we left the restaurant and walked out,” she told the Associated Press by phone. She said she saw hundreds of people standing in the streets.
The situation was similar in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan, where people were seen standing outside their homes and offices.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said in a statement that he had asked disaster management officials to remain vigilant to handle any situation.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the main spokesman for the Taliban government in Afghanistan, tweeted that the Ministry of Public Health had ordered all health centers to stand by.
The region is subject to severe seismic upheavals. A 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2005 killed thousands in Pakistan and Kashmir.
Last year in southeastern Afghanistan, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck a rugged, mountainous region, flattening stone and mud brick houses. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers put the total death toll from the earthquake at 1,150, with hundreds more injured, while the United Nations offered a lower estimate of 770.
Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez, Riaz Khan and Abdul Sattar contributed from Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta, Pakistan, respectively.