Strong earthquake rattles northeast Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A powerful earthquake jolted the remote Hindu Kush mountains along Afghanistan's northeast border with Pakistan early Tuesday as residents slept, officials said.
The quake was centered in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province, which borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China, near the Wakhan corridor, a narrow strip of Afghan territory that juts off to the northeast of the country.
The temblor struck at 2:24 a.m. Tuesday (2124 GMT Monday)
The U.S. Geological Survey said it had a magnitude of 6.6. Pakistan's Seismological Center, based in the northwestern city of Peshawar, put the magnitude at 6.8.
A government spokesman in Kabul, where the quake rattled windows and sent some frightened residents scampering into the streets in their nightclothes, had no immediate information on any casualties or damage.
"The whole region is earthquake-prone,'' said presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin.
"Emergency response has been very challenging in the past because a lot of areas are difficult to access.''
In May 1998, an earthquake of magnitude 6.9 killed as many as 5,000 people in northern Afghanistan and neighboring Tajikistan.
Another quake killed up to 1,000 in northern Afghanistan in March 2002.
Mohammed Irfan, an official at Pakistan's Seismological Center, said Tuesday's quake lasted "nearly a minute.''
"It was of severe intensity,'' he said.
Amir Shahzad Warsi, an official at Pakistan's Meteorological Department in the capital, Islamabad, said the quake was "intense'' and there were fears it could cause serious damage.
It was felt as far east as Lahore, near Pakistan's border with India.
The Afghan area of Badakhshan is extremely remote and difficult to reach by road.
Assessing the damage could take time, sometimes even several days.
The quake's epicenter was 275 kilometers (175 miles) northeast of Kabul near the border with Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The area sees frequent seismic activity.
A pair of magnitude-5 earthquakes struck northwestern Pakistan on March 10 and February 22, but caused no injuries.
A magnitude 5.7 quake and nearly equally strong aftershock struck roughly the same region on Feb. 13, killing at least 24 people, triggering landslides and demolishing hundreds of homes. - AP