ISLAMABAD — A magnitude-6.5 earthquake rattled much of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday, sending panicked residents fleeing from homes and offices and frightening people in remote villages. At least nine people died in Pakistan and two in Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday.
More than 200 people were taken to hospitals in the Swat valley and elsewhere in the region of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in a state of shock, said Bilal Faizi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s emergency services.
“These terrified people collapsed, and some of them collapsed because of the shock of the earthquake,” he said. Faizi said most were later discharged from the hospital.
Faizi and other officials said nine people were killed when roofs collapsed in various parts of northwestern Pakistan. Dozens of others were injured in the quake, which was centered in Afghanistan and also felt in bordering Tajikistan. The earthquake triggered landslides in some of the mountainous areas, disrupting traffic.
The nine people who died in northwest Pakistan included five men, two women and two children.
Taimoor Khan, a spokesman for the provincial disaster management authority in the northwest, said at least 19 mudbrick homes collapsed in remote areas. “We are still collecting data about the damages,” he said.
The powerful tremors sent many people fleeing their homes and offices in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, some reciting verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book. Media reports suggested cracks had appeared in some apartment buildings in the city.
In Afghanistan, Sharafat Zaman Amar, Taliban’s appointed spokesman for the public health ministry, said at least two people died and around 20 others were injured.
“Unfortunately, there could be more casualties as the quake was so powerful, in most parts of the country,” Zaman Amar said.
The scene was repeated in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
“The quake was so strong and terrifying, we thought houses are collapsing on us, people were all shouting and were shocked,” said Shafiullah Azimi, a Kabul resident.
Aziz Ahmad, 45, another Kabul resident, said he and his neighbors stayed out of their homes for hours, afraid of aftershocks.
“In my life this was first time I have experienced such powerful quake, everyone was terrified," he said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the magnitude 6.5 quake was 25 miles south-southeast of Jurm in Afghanistan’s mountainous Hindukush region, bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan. The quake struck 116 miles deep below the Earth’s surface, causing it to be felt over a wide area.
Khurram Shahzad, a resident in Pakistan’s garrison city of Rawalpindi, said he was having dinner with his family at a restaurant when the walls started swaying.
“I quickly thought that it is a big one, and we left the restaurant and came out,” he said by phone. He said he saw hundreds of people standing on the streets.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a statement said he asked disaster management officials to remain vigilant to handle any situation.
The region is prone to violent seismic upheavals. A magnitude 7.6 quake in 2005 killed thousands of people in Pakistan and Kashmir.
Last year in southeastern Afghanistan, a powerful quake struck a rugged, mountainous region, flattening stone and mud-brick homes. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers put the total death toll from the quake at 1,150, with hundreds more injured, while the U.N. has offered a lower estimate of 770.
The latest earthquake hit Pakistan as it struggles to recover from last summer’s devastating floods which killed 1,739 people. Swat valley in northwest Pakistan was among the areas hit by the floods worsened by climate change.