A 7.5 magnitude earthquake (play the video) with its epicentre in the Hindukush region of Afghanistan shook South Asia leaving at least 60 dead in Afghanistan and 200 dead across Pakistan, according to reports from Dawn, Al Jazeera and RFE/RL.
Forty minutes after the first earthquake, another 4.8 magnitude tremor was reported in the Hindukush region.
The earthquake struck almost exactly six months after Nepal suffered its worst quake on record on 25 April.
As many as 12 students were killed in a stampede in a girl’s school in the city of Taloqan in Afghanistan’s Takhar province.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, 48 people were killed in building crash or other quake-related incidents.
Of them, seven deaths were reported from eastern province of Nangarhar, two from Nuristan province in the northeast and three from eastern Kunar province.
Sonatullah Timor, spokesman for the governor of the northern Afghan province, spoke to RFE/RL about the tragedy that unfolded at the school in the provincial capital, Taloqan.
“Most of the girls died in a panic that ensued. No school was damaged in the quake,” he said. “However, there was a lot of panic, and, because there is only one exit at a school leading from the second to the ground floor, some of them could have died in the crush.”
Timor said that more than 30 schoolgirls had been hospitalized with injuries, some of them serious.
Hikmat Fasi, a resident of Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan, said the quake caused a lot of damage in the area. “We are safe but I saw a lot of buildings collapse,” Hikmat Fasi said. “It [earthquake] caused severe damage to our area. We are just praying.”
In Baghlan’s province north of Kabul, construction worker Mir Omarkhil, 32, said his 11-year-old son lost a leg to the quake.
“He was playing outside when the earth shook,” Omarkhil said. “He got himself under a building for protection. That cost him his left leg.”
Rashid Khan Haider, 54, a folk singer from Parwan, said he fled his home moments before it collapsed. When the quake began, he thought a terrorist attack was underway, he said.
“Within a few moments, I got the idea that it is something else,” he said. “Thanks to Allah that we are safe, but our house was ruined like a house of cards.”
Tremors were felt across Central Asia. Approximately 400 kilometers north of the epicenter, in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, thousands of residents evacuated buildings.
200 killed in Pakistan, death toll may go up
The earthquake struck Pakistan at 2.09pm. It lasted up to one minute and left more than 200 dead across the country.
The death toll could climb as communications are down in much of the remote mountainous regions, Dawn said. Maximum deaths were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata region (191) followed by Punjab (5), Gilgit Balitistan (3) and Azad Jammu Kashmir (1).
At least 194 people are being treated for injuries in Swat’s Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital, which does not have adequate medical facilities.
More than 100 wounded have been admitted to Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital.
Tremors have been felt in major cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta, Kohat and Malakand.
Communication services have been disrupted in Islamabad, where walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in panic, reciting verses from the Holy Quran.
A building collapsed in Peshawar. Several mud huts collapsed in Baluchistan’s Zhob district.
“We were very scared … We saw people leaving buildings, and we were remembering our God,” Pakistani journalist Zubair Khan said by telephone from the Swat Valley northwest of the capital Islamabad.
“I was in my car and, when I stopped my car, the car itself was shaking as if someone was pushing it back and forth,” he said.
Journalist Gul Hammad Farooqi, 47, said his house had collapsed. “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,” he said.
“There is a great deal of destruction here, and my house has collapsed, but thankfully my children and I escaped,” he said.
In Mingora, Pakistan, 50 miles from the Afghanistan border, schoolteacher Salma Khan said she was helping her pupils wrap up for the day when the ground shifted beneath her.
“Our first reaction was that maybe it is a terrorist attack,” Khan said. “We rushed to move the children out of the vicinity when we found out it was an earthquake.”
Citizens took to social media to post reports of the massive quake.
Faisal Farooq, 28, of Rawalpindi was in his apartment on the third floor near Commercial market when the quake struck. “I literally felt death. The building was moving like a swing. My legs are still shivering,” he said.
Rida Maria, 22, another resident of Rawalpindi, was in his MBBS class at Foundation University Medical College. “Suddenly, I felt my chair shake. It was a massive jolt,” he said.
Bilal Shah, 30, of Islamabad was taking tea in his office.
“All of a sudden, I felt two big jolts under my feet. At first, I thought it was just an ordinary tremor, but suddenly, I heard the windows rattle and I rushed out of the building f my office. It was scary,” he said.
Several landslides have been reported in mountainous areas of the country, leading to fears that the death toll may increase.
Woman dies of heart attack, 2 army personnel injured
In Kashmir, an 80-year-old woman died of a heart attack in the southern town of Bijbehara and two Indian army soldiers were injured when a sentry post collapsed on them in the town of Sopore, local police said.
The earthquake also caused landslides, disrupting regular traffic in various parts of Kashmir.
The landslides blocked the main highway connecting Pakistan and China. Karakoram Highway in northern Pakistan has been sealed off at multiple points, local authorities said. The blockage has stranded thousands of travelers and vehicles in remote areas.
New Delhi’s metro stopped running during the tremor. Avinash Mishra, 28, a law student at Dehli University, was riding the subway from the city into the suburbs on Monday when the earthquake struck.
“Suddenly the train stopped,” Mishra said. “We could feel tremors inside the train. We were there for about 15 minutes until the train moved again.”
Modi offers help to Afghanistan, Pakistan
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He said he has asked for urgent assessment of the damage caused by the quake which also hit many parts of India.
“Heard about strong earthquake in Afghanistan-Pakistan region whose tremors have been felt in parts of India. I pray for everyone’s safety,” Modi tweeted.