In Brief

Afghan earthquake: death toll soars as rescue efforts continue

More than 260 people have been killed after magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocked Pakistan and Afghanistan

The number of people killed by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck north-eastern Afghanistan on Monday continues to rise.

More than 260 people are now known to have died, the majority of them in Pakistan. The search for survivors continues, but rescue teams are struggling to reach people trapped in remote areas.

In the northern Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, at least 179 people were killed and more than 1,800 were injured, the BBC reports.

The quake struck in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, an area that has a history of powerful earthquakes, with tremors felt as far away as India and Tajikistan. 

The earthquake was of a similar magnitude to the one that killed more than 70,000 people in 2005. However, the epicentre was much deeper in the ground, resulting in a much lower death toll.

Islamabad and Kabul have declared emergencies and Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, cut short his visit to the UK. Military units from both countries have been deployed to the worst affected areas.

Pakistan has insisted that it does not require international assistance to cope with a disaster, but the government in Kabul has called for international aid agencies to send help, The Guardian says.

In one of the deadliest scenes in Afghanistan, 12 young schoolgirls were killed in a stampede while trying to escape shaking buildings in the city of Taloqan. "They fell under the feet of other students," a disaster official in the province of Takhar told Reuters.

Afghan authorities estimate that 4,000 houses were either severely damaged or destroyed. Residents are now clearing the rubble while searching for missing friends and family.

President Ashraf Ghani has urged his country to unite in response to the tragedy. "I demand all Afghans, my fellow countrymen, to help each other if they are in the affected areas."

However, rescue efforts are also likely to be complicated by security threats created by an escalating Taliban insurgency in the region, reports Al Jazeera

Afghanistan earthquake shakes southern Asia

26 October

At least 40 people are said to have been killed after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck southern Asia today.

The epicentre of the earthquake was in northern Afghanistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), but the impact was felt as far away as India, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. Its depth is believed to be 213.5km.

Among the dead were said to be 12 school girls, reportedly killed in a stampede while trying to escape shaking buildings in the Afghan city of Taloqan.

There were also widespread power outages in the capital city of Kabul, but no immediate reports of major damage.

USGS said "significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread". It issued an orange alert, just below a top-level red alert, with estimated fatalities of 100 to 999 people and estimated losses of $100m to $1bn.

Dr Ilan Kelman, reader in risk, resilience and global health at UCL, told The Guardian: "Communications appear to have gone down in the worst-affected areas, so it will be some time before we know the full impact. In the meantime, at this stage in the hours afterwards, it will be the locals rescuing people from the rubble, treating the injured, setting up temporary shelter, and catering for immediate physical and psycho-social needs."

Neville Lazarus, India producer for Sky News, said: "We rushed out of our building and went down for some time. As soon as we did we saw the whole street full of people. They've gone back in… now but it was quite a scary sort of a moment because of what happened six months ago in Nepal."

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April killed thousands of people and demolished more than half a million homes. However, its depth was much shallower than today's at 8km.

Pakistan also experienced a devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake in 2005, when more than 70,000 people were killed and more than three million were left homeless.

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