12 schoolgirls trampled to death in Afghanistan earthquake

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2015-10-26 21:01:35.0
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• 7.5-magnitude earthquake hits northern Afghanistan
• Earthquake shakes buildings in Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi
• At least 180 people reported killed, 145 in Pakistan alone

What happened today?

Twelve Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede of terrified pupils fleeing their school as a massive earthquake killed at least 180 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan, Philip Sherwell, Asia Editor, Ali M Latifi in Kabul and Mohammad Zubair Khan in Islamabad report.

The death toll was expected to rise significantly by the morning as aid workers struggle to reach its epicentre in a remote region with poor communications in the Hindu Kush mountain range of north-eastern Afghanistan.

The tremor measured a 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, with its shock waves reaching as far away as the Indian capital New Delhi and unleashing panic in major Pakistani and Afghan cities.

The earthquake did, however, take place under a sparsely-populated region at an estimated depth of 130 miles, potentially limiting the number of casualties.

Pakistan security officials survey the collapsed houses following 7.7 magnitude earthquake, in Kohat, Pakistan, 26 October 2015. A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 hit northern Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountain range causing damage in Pakistan and India
Pakistan security officials survey the collapsed houses following 7.7 magnitude earthquake, in Kohat, Pakistan, 26 October 2015. A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 hit northern Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountain range causing damage in Pakistan and India  Photo: EPA

It struck six months after Nepal was devastated by the worst earthquake in its recorded history – the latest such disaster to strike south Asia amid intensified seismic activity.

One of the greatest tragedies occurred at a school in the Afghan province of Takhar. As panicked pupils rushed out of the building amid falling rubble, at least 12 girls were crushed and killed under the feet of classmates, with 42 more injured, several critically.

As darkness fell, the heaviest death toll so far reported was recorded in neighbouring Pakistan where officials put the number of fatalities at 260. At least 228 people were killed in Pakistan, with more than 1,000 injured, while Afghan officials reported 33 dead and more than 200 injured, and authorities in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region reported two deaths.

Officials expected the casualty toll to rise as they reached the remote areas.

Thousands fled buildings and stood in streets as structures shook and the ground rolled beneath them.

Shoes of Afghan school girls are seen on the ground after an earthquake hit in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan
Shoes of Afghan school girls are seen on the ground after an earthquake hit in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan  Photo: AP

In the Afghan capital Kabul, power was lost as the tremor rocked the city. Haji Ehsan was in the Baharestan neighbourhood of Kabul when the one-minute quake struck.

"It was very scary. Everyone immediately ran outside, from their houses, from their stores. We're just lucky it passed quickly. The ground shook so much I couldn't believe it, I've never experienced anything like it," he told the Telegraph.

Telecommunications were disrupted in large parts of the country, preventing officials from gathering more accurate details of damage and casualties. He also warned of aftershocks from the earthquake.

"Initial reports show a big loss of life, huge financial losses in Badakhshan, Takhar, Nangarhar, Kunar and other regions, including the capital Kabul," said Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive.

In Pakistan, Gen Raheel Sharif, the army chief, ordered the deployment of troops to the quake-affected areas.

Local residents survey the collapsed houses following 7.7 magnitude earthquake, in Kohat, Pakistan
Local residents survey the collapsed houses following 7.7 magnitude earthquake, in Kohat, Pakistan  Photo: EPA

For many Pakistanis in the country’s north west, the powerful tremor brought fears of a repeat of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake 10 years ago this month that killed more than 75,00 people, although on that occasion the epicentre was much shallower.

Dr Muhammad Sadiq, the head of emergency services at a government hospital in Peshawar said on Monday night that the injured were still being brought in. "Many are still under rubble," he told AFP news agency.

The Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the clashing junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, has been increasingly quake-prone in recent years.

Rescue efforts by international aid groups could be hindered by the presence in the region of Taliban-led insurgents, who have used its remote valleys as cover to seize districts as they spread their footprint across the country.

Interactive: Earthquake depths

The province also suffers from floods, snowstorms and mudslides, and despite vast mineral deposits is one of Afghanistan's poorest regions.

How the day unfolded...

16.35

The death toll nearly doubled to 63 in Afghanistan, after officials confirmed 30 fatalities in the eastern province of Kunar.

"The quake has caused a lot of devastation in this province. Initial information shows 30 people have been killed and more than 70 injured. Some 1,500 homes have also been destroyed," said Kunar Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai.

People stand outside a house damaged from an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan
People stand outside a house damaged from an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan  Photo: AP

Residents walk past the rubble of a house after it was damaged by an earthquake in Mingora, Swat, Pakistan
Residents walk past the rubble of a house after it was damaged by an earthquake in Mingora, Swat, Pakistan  Photo: Reuters

15.16

Mohammad Zubair Khan reporting from Islamabad:

Quote
People have been warned of aftershocks in the region after Monday's earthquake. A spokesman from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said two aftershocks had been recorded so far, with magnitude 4.5 and 5.3.

More aftershocks are expected to occur and the public have been asked to keep their doors open, keep passages clear, to remain away from any glass structures and keep gas valves turned off.

15.13

Pakistan's Information Minister Pervez Rashid says Pakistan 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. He thanked neighbouring India for offering support to Islamabad for the quake victims.

"We have enough resources to handle the situation. Our top priority is to help those affected because of the earthquake," he told a news conference.

14.25

According to the Independent, the number of those killed has reached at least 180 as more details come from remote areas of Pakistan.

The newspaper cites Inayatullah Khan, Pakistan's provincial minister who says 121 people have been killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The new total in Pakistan is 145, with at least 180 killed across south Asia.

14.05

Naima Chohan, who works for children's rights organisation Plan International and lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, felt the earthquake. She says:

Quote
There was a big tremor in Islamabad and it lasted for a minute. The lamps and fans were shaking.”

When I went outside, people were stood outside on the road. Many were too scared to go back in. They were remembering the 2005 earthquake that devastated parts of Pakistan 10 years ago and the aftershocks that followed. That’s what we are most scared of now.

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck in October 2005, killing more than 75,000 people and displacing some 3.5 million more, although that quake was much shallower.

Pakistani residents search under the rubble of a house after an earthquake hit Lower Dir
Pakistani residents search under the rubble of a house after an earthquake hit Lower Dir  Photo: Getty Images

14.03

President @AshrafGhani: My prayers for all those affected by today's powerful #earthquake in #Afghanistan and our region. (1/3)

— ??? (@ARG_AFG) October 26, 2015

(2/3) We are collecting information to have an accurate assessment of today's #earthquake damages across the country.

— ??? (@ARG_AFG) October 26, 2015

(3/3) All government agencies will remain on stand-by to assist victims of today's #earthquake & carry out rescue operations if needed.

— ??? (@ARG_AFG) October 26, 2015

13.56

Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, has been speaking to Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, and was "pained to hear" of the school stampede which killed 12 girls:

President @AshrafGhani shared with me his initial assessment of the damage. I offered all possible assistance.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015

President @ashrafghani told me due to the quake a school building collapsed & children lost their lives. I was very pained to hear of this.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015

13.30

Reuters reporting 100 killed in the earthquake; 24 in Afghanistan and 76 in neighbouring Pakistan.

The toll in Pakistan may be as high as 105, according to Mohammad Zubair Khan reporting from Islamabad:

Quote
According to the national disaster management authority, the death toll has risen to 105. Scores have also been injured after building collapses, landslides and stampedes.

13.26

A man with his belongings walks past the rubble of a house damaged by the earthquake in Mingora, Pakistan
A man with his belongings walks past the rubble of a house damaged by the earthquake in Mingora, Pakistan   Photo: Hazrat Ali Bacha/Reuters

Local residents survey houses which collapsed following the earthquake in Bajaur, Pakistan
Local residents survey houses which collapsed following the earthquake in Bajaur, Pakistan  Photo: Hanifullah Khan/EPA

12.29

Afghan authorities appear to be preparing for a high number of casualties, though as yet they have not released any official figures.

Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's chief executive officer, has said in a tweet that the earthquake was "the strongest one felt in recent decades. There are reports of heavy casualties caused by the earthquake but exact numbers are yet to be released by government authorities."

Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah: today's earthquake was the strongest one felt in the recent decades. 1

— Dr. Abdullah (@afgexecutive) October 26, 2015

Mr Abdullah, who was given the extra-constitutional post after both he and President Ashraf Ghani claimed victory int the last presidential elections, earlier held an emergency meeting of disaster officials which was broadcast live on television.

Afghan school girls are treated at a hospital in Afghanistan's Takhar province after the earthquake
Afghan school girls are treated at a hospital in Afghanistan's Takhar province after the earthquake   Photo: Zalmai Ashna/AP He said telecommunications have been disrupted in many areas, preventing officials from getting a clear picture of the damage.

11.55

AFP news agency now reporting that at least 70 people have been killed in the earthquake.

11.19

We are getting different reports on the death toll - latest from Reuters is 17 people killed in Afghanistan and 12 killed in neighbouring Pakistan.

Pakistani soldiers observe the damaged wall of a fort used by security forces after an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan
Pakistani soldiers observe the damaged wall of a fort used by security forces after an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan  Photo: AFP

AP agency reports 29 people dead in north-west Pakistan, with a total death toll of 43, while AFP reports 52 dead in Pakistan and a total of 64 across the area.

Residents examine a house damaged by the earthquake in Bazarak, Afghanistan
Residents examine a house damaged by the earthquake in Bazarak, Afghanistan  Photo: AFP

International aid agencies working in the northern areas of Afghanistan report that mobile phone coverage in the affected areas remains down after the initial quake.

People injured in the earthquake receive medical treatment outisde a hospital in Abbottabad, Pakistan
People injured in the earthquake receive medical treatment outisde a hospital in Abbottabad, Pakistan  Photo: Sultan Dogar/EPA

11.10

Mohammad Zubair Khan in Islamabad reports that the death toll has risen to 16 in Pakistan, according to hospital sources.

Medical staff treat a man injured in an earthquake at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan
Medical staff treat a man injured in an earthquake at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan  Photo: A Majeed/AFP

11.07

In Afghanistan's Takhar province, west of Badakahshan, at least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they tried to get out of the shaking buildings, a local official says.

Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, says another 30 girls have been taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.

Latest map of the 830 felt reports collected through LastQuake amsrtphone app and EMSC websites pic.twitter.com/VdAU017wzr

— EMSC (@LastQuake) October 26, 2015

10.58

Image from Indian Occ Punjab at Ludhiyana where a car comes out of a showroom after collapse #Earthquake pic.twitter.com/XyVi6ADVRG

— Farhan Khan Virk (@FarhanKVirk) October 26, 2015

10.55

International aid organisation Care has highlighted concerns for the internally displaced people in Afghanistan. Christina Northey, Care country director in Afghanistan, says:

Quote
Obviously the situation is going to be much worse for poor and vulnerable people, particularly those who have been displaced by the conflict. Plus winter is starting and there has been a noticeable drop in temperature over the past few days.

10.49

Mohammad Zubair Khan reports from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad:

Quote
Hospital sources confirm that at least 194 injured have been brought to Swat's Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital, Mingora, in northern Pakistan.

Meanwhile more than 100 wounded have been admitted to Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital.

Aftershocks are still being felt and people have been advised to vacate buildings.

10.47

Reuters is now quoting the head of Nangahar provincial hospital, east of Kabul, reporting five deaths and 55 injured.

10.31

Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, says the country is ready to assist as required:

I have asked for an urgent assessment and we stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan & Pakistan.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015

10.26

More than 100 people have been injured in Pakistan's northern city of Peshawar, said Dr Muhammad Sadiq, the head of emergency services at a government hospital there.

"Many more injured are still coming to hospital. Many are still under rubble," Dr Sadiq told AFP news agency

10.25

Earthquakes of this size have caused massive destruction in the past. Below is a list of some of the world's strongest earthquakes in the past five years, via AFP news agency:

• April 25, 2015: A 7.8 magnitude quake in Nepal kills almost 8,900 people and destroys about half a million homes. A massive aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3 follows in May, killing dozens more.
• August 11, 2012: Twin earthquakes with a magnitude 6.3 and 6.4 leave 306 dead and more than 3,000 injured near the Iranian city of Tabriz.
• March 11, 2011: Nearly 18,900 are killed when a tsunami triggered by a massive magnitude 9.0 undersea quake slams into the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant.
• October 23, 2011: An earthquake of 7.2 magnitude rocks eastern Turkey, leaving more than 600 dead and at least 4,150 injured
• January 12, 2010: Magnitude 7.0 quake hits Haiti, leaving between 250,000 and 300,000 dead.
• April 14, 2010: A 6.9-magnitude quake hits Yushu county in northwest China's Qinghai province leaving 3,000 people dead and missing.

10.16

People stand on a road in Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley following the earthquake
People stand on a road in Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley following the earthquake   Photo: Danish Ismail/Reuters

Indian office workers stand in an open area in a carpark in New Delhi following the earthquake
Indian office workers stand in an open area in a carpark in New Delhi following the earthquake  Photo: AFP

10.13

More from Ali Latifi in Kabul:

Quote
Ramin, 23, as working in the pharmacy on the bottom floor of a five-story building when he started to feel the ground shake.

"I was talking to my brother in Germany. For a few seconds I thought it would pass but then I started to get afraid and told everyone to get outside."

Three pieces from the roof of the clinic fell but no one was injured.

10.08

The four people killed were in northeastern Pakistan, according to officials, and "scores" have been injured, after the earthquake hit neighbouring Afghanistan.

10.03

The earthquake was deep so experts were not expecting major direct damage. However, it looks like landslides have been triggered by the earthquake

Unfortunately, confirmation landslides trigerred by massive M7.7 #earthquake. Plse send ur pics via lastQuake app RT https://t.co/qSFk6tD9zf

— EMSC (@LastQuake) October 26, 2015

12. Landslide from a mountain in Gilgit after the earthquake #Gilgit #Earthquake @Mountainous_1 pic.twitter.com/CyKZAjazDa

— pamirtimes (@pamirtimes) October 26, 2015

15. Earthquake triggered landslide between Ganish (Hunza) and SAS Valley (Nagar).#Hunza #earthquake #Gilgit @Farhan pic.twitter.com/9nEG3K9Ew2

— pamirtimes (@pamirtimes) October 26, 2015

10.00

Haji Ehsan was in the Baharestan neighbourhood of Kabul offering funeral prayers.

"It was very scary. Everyone immediately ran outside, from their houses, from their stores. We're just lucky it passed quickly. The ground shook so much I couldn't believe it, I've never experienced anything like it."

09.59

Four people have been killed following the earthquake, according to Reuters news agency.

09.52

Ali Latifi reports from Kabul, Afghanistan:

Quote
The earthquake seemed to last for at least a minute. The ground shook heavily, one person described it as like "waves". People immediately ran outside to see what was going on, saying they never felt anything like it.

The electricity and mobile phones were out for at least 10 minutes after initial tremors. Life has now returned to normal with traffic back out on the streets.

09.45

An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 struck in northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, the US Geological Survey said, sending tremors that were felt in India and Pakistan.

Earthquake just now felt in Delhi. Lasting a good long while.

— Charles Riley (@CRrileyCNN) October 26, 2015

#AFG One of the scariest experiences. Was stuck inside a building during this massive earthquakes, I have experienced.

— Bilal Sarwary (@bsarwary) October 26, 2015

This earthquake is deep so we do not expect major direct damage, but landslides may have been trigerred by shaking and caused damage

— EMSC (@LastQuake) October 26, 2015

The quake was 196 km (120 miles) deep and centred 82 km (51 miles) southeast of Feyzabad in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

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