KABUL, Afghanistan (Oct. 26, 2015) — A magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck southern Asia on Monday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Local news agencies quickly reported death tolls in the dozens, though exact numbers were hard to collect as communications were down in many places.
But in one province alone — Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province — at least 71 people were killed, Amir Afaq, director general of the provincial disaster management authority, told CNN. At least 589 people were injured.
Afghan broadcaster Tolo TV showed images of collapsed structures.
Twelve schoolgirls were killed in a stampede in northern Afghanistan as they tried to exit their school, police said.
The girls, between 10 and 15 years old, were crushed in their Taluqan city school’s stairwell, between the first and second floors, said Abdul Khalil Asir, a spokesman for Takhar province police.
The USGS issued an orange alert on the quake. “Significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread. Past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response,” the USGS said.
The epicenter was 45 kilometers (28 miles) south-southwest of Jarm, Afghanistan, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. CNN teams in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan all felt strong tremors. A USGS map showed that shaking traveled into Tajikistan as well.
The quake’s epicenter was at a depth of 213.5 kilometers (132.7 miles). The USGS initially reported it as magnitude 7.7 and then revised it to 7.5.
Kabul: ‘It was really bad’
“It was really bad,” said Masoud Popalzai, CNN’s producer in Kabul. “In 30 years of my life, it was the worst I experienced myself.”
Everyone ran out into the streets. The walls of his compound shook so hard, they looked like they might fall over.
“In the bathroom everything swayed,” he said. “Things fell to the ground in the office’s kitchen.”
But he has seen no signs of damage in Kabul, even after driving a few miles around the city.
Some 60 miles southwest of Kabul, in the town of Ghazni, there were reports that the historic gate had collapsed, accompanied by photos on social media.
In Islamabad, Pakistan, CNN correspondent Sophia Saifi was standing in the kitchen when her microwave fell. She ran out of her building as it began to shake.
Minutes later, as she stood outside, the ground was still trembling.
“We can feel tremors at sporadic intervals,” she said. But people were calm, trying to make cell phone calls, while children played in the streets around them. There was no damage Saifi could see.
In Quetta, near the border with Afghanistan, there were no reports of casualties, Saifi said, but there were “structural damages.”
Pakistan’s military has been activated without waiting for formal orders, a military spokesman said in a tweet.
Northern Pakistan has seen recent heavy rains, and there are fears the quake may have triggered landslides.
In the Hunza Valley in that region, the quake reportedly shook loose a landslide at a mountain glacier. Photos circulated on social media.
New Dehli, India, rumbles
Hundreds of miles away in CNN’s bureau in New Delhi, India, bureau chief Ravi Agrawal felt tremors.
“We could feel a fair bit of shaking,” he said. “We could see tables shaking a little bit; the TVs on the wall were shaking a little bit.”
“The last earthquake that brought shakes as bad as that was the Nepal earthquake,” Agrawal said.
India’s government expressed willingness to help out.
“I have asked for an urgent assessment and we stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan & Pakistan,” Indian President Narendra Modi said in a tweet.
Quake felt in Kyrgyzstan
The earthquake was felt all the way up in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz political activist Edil Baisalov told CNN that the shaking was “not unusual for us but quite long tremors. As far as I know no damage in Kyrgyzstan.”