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Strong quake has people fleeing homes in Afghanistan, Pakistan

By AFP - Mar 21,2023 - Last updated at Mar 21,2023

Hotel guests gather outside their hotel after an earthquake in Amritsar on Tuesday (AFP photo)

KABUL — A strong earthquake lasting for at least 30 seconds was felt across much of Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India Tuesday night, with the United States Geological Survey(USGS) putting the magnitude at 6.5.

"It was a terrifying tremor. I had never felt such a tremor before in my life," Khatera, 50, a resident of Kabul, told AFP after rushing out of their fifth-storey apartment in the capital.

The USGS said the quake was centred near Jurm in north-eastern Afghanistan and had a depth of 187 kilometres.

The region is frequently hit by earthquakes — especially in the Hindu Kush Mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but the quake was felt strongly across much of Afghanistan, Pakistan and even further east in parts of India.

"So far, thank God, there has been no bad news of casualties. We hope that all citizens of the country are safe," tweeted the Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

He said health centres across the country had been put on high alert.

In Pakistan, frightened people fled their homes as the tremor hit.

"People ran out of their houses and were reciting the Koran," said an AFP correspondent in Pakistan's Rawalpindi.

Ikhlaq Kazmi, a retired professor in the city, said his entire house started shaking.

"The children started shouting that there is an earthquake," he said. "We all ran out."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to be ready to deal with any emergency.

In Afghanistan, many families were out of their homes celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, when the quake struck.

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.

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 on June 22 of last year.

Over 55,000 people were killed by an earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria last month.

Afghanistan is in the grips of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021.

International development funding on which the South Asian country relied dried up after the takeover and assets held abroad were frozen.

 

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