Kabul, April 3 (Reuters): A strong earthquake struck the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan today, with tremors felt across Pakistan and India, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
The earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck 260 km northeast of Kabul, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and officials at Pakistan’s meteorological department said.
Authorities in Faizabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province and the town nearest the epicentre, were trying to contact outlying districts to assess damage and casualties, deputy governor Shams-Urahman said.
Relief agency workers in the provincial capital described how the ground and buildings shook during the quake at around 0335 GMT.
“I was in the office when the tremor started. The windows began to rattle and we all rushed outside as a precaution,” Sulaiman Khaliqyar, the administrative head of Afghan Aid, said by telephone from Faizabad.
“It lasted for more than a minute,” said Mohammed Wais, an official at the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development in Faizabad. He added: “We don’t see at the moment any damage in the area.”
The mud walled houses of this impoverished part of Afghanistan are vulnerable to quakes, and their structures will have been further weakened by heavy rainfall in recent days.
Thousands of people were killed by two earthquakes in Badakhshan province in the late 1990s. The tremors from today’s quake were felt as far away as New Delhi. Children in northern Pakistan, where an earthquake killed 73,000 people in October 2005, fled screaming from their schools.
In Kashmir, panic gripped the residents of Uri and Tangdhar, reviving memories of the October 8, 2005, quake. However, officials said there was no report of casualties or damage to property from anywhere in the valley.
Reports of mild tremors were also received from Rajouri, Poonch and Udhampur districts, police in Jammu said. The timing of the tremors, which lasted for 12 seconds, was the same as in 2005 when the entire Kashmir valley was rocked by an earthquake.
“We all got frightened so we went to the open field. Today’s tremors came at almost the same time as in 2005, so I took my entire family to safety,” said Mumtaz Ahmed in Baramulla.
“I was driving my car, when i saw trees on the roadside shaking like anything, I at once thought it to be an earthquake, so I parked my car and ran towards an open field.” said Tariq Ahmed Bhat a resident of Baramulla.
“After feeling the shocks, we ran towards our lab where we have installed the specially designed earthquake alarm,” Prof. Moiuddin, director of B.R Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, said.