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.
Thousands spent the night outdoors in near-freezing temperatures reluctant to go back inside for fear of aftershocks, Pakistani media reported on early on Tuesday.
“Rescue work is ongoing, and tents, blankets and sleeping mats are being provided,” Latif ur Rehman, a Pakistani disaster management official, told Reuters from the northwestern city of Peshawar.
The total death toll stood at 375 with at least 260 people killed in Pakistan and at least 115 more in Afghanistan, according to official reports from the two countries. More than 2,000 people have been injured.
Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, cut short his visit to the United Kingdom to fly home to deal with the emergency.
The United States offered emergency shelters and relief supply kits stored in warehouses throughout Afghanistan that could be used. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. government has been in touch with officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is ready to provide any additional support.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Heard about strong earthquake in Afghanistan-Pakistan region whose tremors have been felt in parts of India. I pray for everyone’s safety,” and also, “I have asked for an urgent assessment and we stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan & Pakistan.”
Pakistan has said it will not issue any appeals to the international community for help as the country has the required resources to carry out the rescue and relief work. “We will try our best to deal with this disaster using our own resources,” Nawaz Sharif said.