At least 13 people were killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by a strong earthquake felt across thousands of kilometres, but the region appeared Wednesday (March 22) to have dodged the mass casualties usually associated with a tremor of such scale.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.5 quake was centred near Jurm in northeastern Afghanistan, but the depth of 187km mitigated extensive damage.
The quake, which struck at about 9.30pm Kabul time on Tuesday and lasted more than 30 seconds, was felt from Central Asia to New Delhi in India -- more than 2,000km away.
"It was a powerful earthquake and we feared maximum damage due to the intensity -- that's why we issued an alert," Bilal Ahmad Faizi, a spokesman for Pakistan's emergency Rescue 1122 service in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told AFP.
"But fortunately our fears proved wrong. Residents panicked from the magnitude of the earthquake, but the damage was minimal."
The region is frequently hit by quakes -- especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
'Stayed awake' all night
In Jurm district, Badakhshan province, near the epicentre, a resident of one village reported no casualties despite the proximity.
"We are about 2,000 to 3,000 people in our village, and we all spent the night outside under the sky," said Inamullah, reached by telephone.
"We were all scared and stayed awake the entire night."
Some 50 houses had collapsed in the village located in the snow-capped mountains, an AFP correspondent who arrived in the area reported.
Panicked residents of cities and towns in Afghanistan and Pakistan also fled their homes to seek safety away from buildings -- with many too scared to return.
"We stayed the night in our courtyard... it was cold outside, but we preferred to stay out rather than go back," 24-year-old student Neda Raihan told AFP in Kabul.
In Afghanistan, officials reported four dead, including a child, and 74 injured -- but phone and internet links to remote parts of the country had been severed and communication was patchy.
"When we were rushing out, a wall of our house collapsed on the children. One lost her life," said Abdul Baseer, a resident of Laghman province.
Officials said about 150 houses were damaged in Laghman.
In Kabul, shopkeeper Noor Mohammad Hanifi set up tents in the street for his family to spend the night in.
"Nobody dares to go inside their homes," Hanifi told AFP as his family, cloaked in blankets, took shelter.
In Afghanistan, many families were out of their homes celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, when the quake struck.
"I heard people screaming and yelling as they came out in the streets," said Masieh, who was outside with his family when the tremor hit.
"It's possible that there could be another tremor so I'm still waiting outside," he said late on Tuesday.
Those indoors also quickly left their houses and apartments.
"They just fled without wearing shoes, just carrying their children in their hands," an AFP correspondent said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to be ready to deal with any emergency.
Last June more than 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands made homeless after a 5.9-magnitude quake -- the deadliest in Afghanistan in nearly a quarter of a century -- struck the impoverished province of Paktika.
Another quake rocked Badghis and neighbouring provinces in January 2022.
Afghanistan is in the grips of a humanitarian disaster that deepened after August 2021.
I saw the videos of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. They were very much frustrating. Many people perished in it. Many were injured. The point is that those countries, especially Turkey, which is a developed country, helped the victims of earthquakes to a great extent and controlled the situation. I read the news on BBC Pashto about a newborn child and his mother who were in a harrowing situation. He was under the dust for days and nights. I cried hard for him. Happily, the rescue team finally made it out alive. As much as I understood the disappointing situation of Turkey and Syria, I was happy that rich countries helped them sincerely. The point is that in the last severe earthquake in Afghanistan, I was afraid the same way that I did not face the fate of Turkey and Syria, but thankfully, nothing like that happened.Reply
In the past week, earthquakes and hailstorms have caused financial and personal losses to people in different provinces of Afghanistan. Although your report is based on official sources, details cannot be obtained in some areas. Yes, personal injury is little, but the financial losses are high. However, the hailstorm hit the crops in some areas and washed away the annual food of the farmers. We have a saying, thanks, as the lives are safe, and the rest of the damage and losses will be compensated again. In such situations, humanitarian organizations and the government are responsible for helping the people and standing by them in their difficulties.Reply
When the earthquake occured, I thought we lost everything. The shaking of the earthquake was so strong that no one thought that, they would spare from financial losses and even lives. When the earthquake occurred, I was talking on my cell phone with my friends as suddenly very strong tremors shook our house and my children started crying, and they all ran to me and cried. They were kissing me. That moment will remain as a memory in my life as long as I live. I have never seen such a strong earthquake in my 46 years long life. Thanks to God that there was no self or financial losses. I am grateful to Almighty God for making us and our family healthy and all the poor people of Afghanistan safe.Reply