A powerful earthquake of 7.5 magnitude centred in Afghanistan, has killed nearly 300 people, including 12 Afghan schoolgirls who were crushed in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school.

Afghani and Pakistani officials said 237 of those deaths occurred in Pakistan, while 74 have been confirmed dead in Afghanistan. The temblor was centered deep beneath the Hindu Kush mountains in a sparsely populated region of northeastern Afghanistan that borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.

Tremors from the quake were also felt in northern India and Tajikistan.

The earthquake was centred in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, 76km (45 miles) south of Faizabad, the US Geological Survey reported.

The death toll is set to rise as the most severely affected areas are very remote and communications have been cut off.

To Advertise Call us @ +1 646 431 4064special-issue

In Pakistan, the Swat Valley and areas around the Dir, Malakand and Shangla towns in the mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were also hard-hit in the quake. The Pakistani town closest to the epicenter is Chitral while on the Afghan side it is the Jurm district of Badakhshan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday visited the earthquake-hit town of Shangla in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where at least 49 people were killed and 80 were injured in the earthquake. Also Tuesday, Sharif attended a briefing in Islamabad about the damages caused by the quake.

According to a statement, Sharif praised the country’s rescue efforts and insisted that Pakistan was “capable enough to rescue and rehabilitate those affected by the earthquake” and that every effort would be made to help those stricken. He said his government would soon announce a relief package to compensate those affected by the quake.