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Strong Afghanistan earthquake felt across South Asia

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake has struck northeastern Afghanistan, sending tremors that were felt in Pakistan and India. At least 210 deaths have been reported, including 12 schoolgirls killed in a stampede.

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Afghan earthquake rocks South Asia

The US Geological Survey said that the quake, which struck at around 1:40 p.m. local time (0910 UTC) on Monday, was 196 kilometers (121 miles) deep and that its epicenter was 82 kilometers southeast of Feyzabad, in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range.

At least 147 people died in Pakistan alone, officials said, with the figure expected to rise. Many areas remain inaccessible, and it is expected that it will take days to assess the full extent of the devastation.

Within hours of the quake, the country's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged authorities to utilize all resources to help any victims and ordered the military to initiate rescue operations in the country's northern and northwestern regions.

The region has a history of powerful earthquakes. In 2005, more than 75,000 were killed when a 7.6-magnitude quake hit Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Injuries in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, officials warned that a death toll of 63 was likely to rise as more information trickled in. Whole villages were said to have been destroyed, with the worst-affected Afghan provinces being Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunar, Nangarhar - as well as Kabul.

In the Afghan capital, there were scenes of panic as people fled from office buildings, reciting verses of the Koran. Early reports said that at least 24 people had died in Afghanistan. Among them were schoolgirls, who were killed after a stampede broke out at their school in the northern Afghan city of Taloqan.

"The students rushed to escape the school building," Takhar Education Department Chief Enayat Naweed told AFP news agency, adding that at least 35 others were also injured in the stampede.

The country's CEO, Abdullah Abdullah, said on Twitter that there were also reports of damages and injuries in Afghanistan's northeast.

"Disasters authorities to meet within the hour and respond to the needs," Abdullah tweeted.

In New Delhi, the quake was felt for almost a minute, with witnesses reporting shaking buildings. "The Times of India" also reported that authorities closed the Indian capital's underground train system as a result of the quake.

There were no reports of tremors in Nepal, however, which is still recovering from a major earthquake that struck almost exactly six months ago.

ksb/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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