Sun, Oct 09, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Huge earthquake rocks South Asia

DEADLY TEMBLORThousands are feared to have died after the magnitude 7.6 quake hit at 8

AGENCIES , ISLAMABAD

A major earthquake shook cities and villages across the south Asian subcontinent yesterday, wiping out several villages in Pakistan and leading to fears that the death toll could run into thousands.

Officials said heavy damage was expected in northern Pakistan, but details were difficult to obtain because telephone lines were down and mobile networks overwhelmed.

"The deaths could be running in the thousands. We do not have an exact figure for casualties at this moment, but it's massive," President Pervez Musharraf's spokesman, Major-General Shaukat Sultan, said following an aerial survey of stricken areas.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.6, struck at 8:50am local time and was centered in forest-clad mountains of Pakistani Kashmir, near the Indian border, about 95km northeast of Islamabad.

The first quake was followed by a series of frightening after-shocks between magnitudes of 5.4 and 6.3 -- the last also the biggest at 3:46pm.

They were felt across the subcontinent and shook buildings in the Afghan, Indian and Bangladeshi capitals of Kabul, New Delhi and Dhaka.

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told ARY One television he had reports that several villages had been entirely wiped out.

More than 100 were killed in one district of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province alone, police said. Damage was also heavy in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, residents said.

Geo TV said 25 people had been killed in Pakistani Kashmir and about 30 in the Hazara area of North West Frontier Province.

President Musharraf went to the scene in Islamabad where scores of people were feared killed or trapped in two 12-story apartment blocks reduced to rubble.

"It is a test for all of us. It is a test for me, of the Prime Minister, of the government and of the entire nation and I am sure we will succeed," Musharraf said.

Some 80 to 100 people were believed trapped beneath the rubble, according to Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao.

Correspondents earlier saw the bodies of at least three people being pulled out, as well as six injured people pulled from the debris.

"The quake jolted me awake and I saw people running down the staircase," said Sabahat Ahmed, a resident of one of the blocks.

"By the time the second tremor hit, the building had already started to collapse. As the building was collapsing people were still coming out from it. I heard and saw various people in a state of panic and many stuck under the collapsed building," he said.

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