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Deadly earthquake hits northern Afghanistan, Pakistan

March 21, 2023

The powerful tremor struck in the Hindu Kush mountains and was felt across Central and South Asia. Rescue operations are underway, but authorities say the number of casualties could increase.

People in Islamabad gathering outside mall
The earthquake lasted for about 30 seconds and was felt across much of Pakistan and AfghanistanImage: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Tuesday evening.

At least four people were reported dead in Afghanistan while in Pakistan, Germany's DPA news agency reported the deaths of at least nine people and more than 50 others injured, citing a local disaster authority.

Shaking could be felt across Central and South Asia, including as far away as the Indian capital, New Delhi.

What else do we know about the earthquake?

A 13-year-old girl died when her home collapsed on her in the northern Pakistani district of Swat, police officer Shafiullah Gandapur told the Reuters news agency. Around 150 people were injured.

A 90-meter (295-foot) wall around a police station in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province collapsed without leaving casualties, a police district spokesman said.

A spokesperson for Afghanistan's disaster mitigation ministry said two people, including a child, had been killed in the eastern Laghman province.

Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said health centers across Afghanistan had been put on high alert.

Sharafat Zaman Amar, Taliban's appointed spokesman for the public health ministry said, "Unfortunately, there could be more casualties as the quake was so powerful, in most parts of the country." 

Authorities said strong shaking was felt in Badakhshan and other parts of the country's north.

A spokesperson for the Red Cross said there were no immediate reports of damage in Badakhshan's capital.

Some remote villages in the region can be difficult to reach and do not have phone or internet access.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the magnitude of the quake at 6.5 and said it struck at a depth of 187.6 kilometers (116 miles).

Hindu Kush epicenter of quake

The Hindu Kush mountain range was the epicenter of the quake. The range, which is at the junction of the Indian and Eurasian continental plates, is often hit by earthquakes.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said that shaking could be felt in an area of 1,000 kilometers by 285 million people across South and Central Asia.

Afghanistan was hit by an earthquake in June of last year, which killed 1,000 people.

sdi/nm (Reuters, AP, dpa)