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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Strong Earthquake Hits India and Pakistan - New York Times

Strong Earthquake Hits India and Pakistan - New York TimesOctober 8, 2005
Strong Earthquake Hits India and Pakistan

Filed at 3:48 a.m. ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake rocked South Asia on Saturday, killing at least 21 people and injuring hundreds in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Pakistan's army said initial reports indicate the damage was widespread in that country.

One of the hardest-hit areas appeared to be Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan. Both countries reported dozens of homes damaged, along with some schools, mosques and office buildings.

The Indian government said at least 16 people had been killed in its Jammu-Kashmir state. Pakistan's private TV news station, Geo, said it had received unconfirmed reports that at least 25 people had died in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Four people also died in northwestern Pakistan, a relief official in the area said. Police in India-controlled Kashmir said an infant and another person died there. India reported more than 200 people were injured in its part of Kashmir.

An 11-year-old girl was killed in Afghanistan.

''We have received news of widespread damage in Pakistan's northern areas, Kashmir and other parts of the country,'' said Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the spokesman for Pakistan's army.

He said troops and helicopters were dispatched to earthquake-hit areas to conduct rescue operations. Landslides were blocking rescuers in some areas.

The U.S. Geological Survey said on its Web site the quake hit at 8:50 a.m. local time and had a magnitude of 7.6. It was centered 58 miles north-northeast of Islamabad at a depth of just six miles.

Dozens of people were feared trapped in the rubble of a 10-story apartment building in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Rescue workers pulled two injured people from a huge pile of debris.

Qaiser Abbas, a receptionist in the building, said he was sitting in his office when the building suddenly began to shake.

''After five seconds, I heard big sound, and then about 40 apartments collapsed,'' he said.

The quake badly damaged a village near Balakot, a scenic town about 180 miles northeast of Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, regional police chief Ataullah Wazir said. Local media reports said many homes in Balakot had collapsed.

Four people were killed in the province's Shangla district, said Bahar Karam, a relief official in the area.

In the Afghan capital, Kabul, residents fled their homes for fear they would collapse. Kabul is about 400 miles northwest of Islamabad.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said the quake was also felt at Bagram, the main American base in Afghanistan, but he had no reports of damage there or at other bases around the country.

But an 11-year-old girl in Afghanistan's eastern Nangahar province, which borders Pakistan, was crushed to death when a wall in her home collapsed, said Gafar Khan, a police official.

Police in the Pakistani city of Lahore said at least eight people were injured and four shops were damaged. The earthquake also damaged part of a school in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad, injuring at least two girls.

In Islamabad, buildings shook and walls swayed for about a minute. Panicked people ran out of their homes and offices in many cities. Slight tremors continued afterward. The quake also caused panic in Peshawar and Quetta near the Afghan border.

At least 100 houses were damaged in India's Jammu-Kashmir state, including a dozen houses in Srinagar, the summer capital, said B.B. Vyas, a senior administration official.

''The reports we have received indicate that 16 people have died in Jammu-Kashmir, of which four deaths were in Srinagar,'' the Indian home secretary, V.K. Duggal, said in New Delhi. Srinagar is one of the state's main cities.

Two people, including a nine-month-old baby, were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed, said a police officer in Srinagar. He said telephone lines were down across the state, and power had been switched off in the state as a precaution.

India deployed troops to help rescue people trapped under rubble in Jammu-Kashmir. Telephone lines were down across the state, and power had been switched off in the state as a precaution, he said. Bridges had developed cracks, but traffic was passing over them.

''It was one of the most intense earthquakes felt in the Srinagar region in at least two decades,'' said G.K. Mohanty, an official in the meteorological office in Srinagar.

The tremor was felt in northern India.

''It was so strong that I saw buildings swaying. It was terrifying,'' said Hari Singh, a guard in an apartment complex in the New Delhi suburb of Noida. Hundreds of residents there raced down from their apartments after their beds and couches started shaking.

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