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Massive Earthquake Strikes Northeast Afghanistan Near Pakistan Border

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A large earthquake shook Afghanistan and the surrounding area today. The quake was magnitude 7.5. Its epicenter was in the Hindu Kush Mountains between Afghanistan and China. Reports of damage and casualties are still coming in. Casualty numbers are in the hundreds. NPR's Philip Reeves is in Kabul. And Phil, describe for us what you felt and how widely this quake was felt in the region.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: In Kabul, we felt a very strong quake around lunch time. It started quite gently and grew and grew, and it went on for quite a considerable period. People ran out of the building, and since then, their nerves have been jangling because people are wondering about when there'll be some aftershocks. But it was also felt across a large part of South Asia. That didn't just happen here. It happened in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. And this quake rattled buildings also in New Delhi, India's capital.

SIEGEL: Where does the damage seem to be the greatest?

REEVES: Well, the epicenter was in Northeastern Afghanistan, right in the top right-hand corner of the country, as it were, which is a remote area in the Hindu Kush Mountains. And reports have been coming in all day of people in Northern Afghanistan and also Northwestern Pakistan who were casualties. So far, the death toll stands over 200. A thousand people, at least, have been injured. Many thousands of buildings are known to have been damaged, and some have been destroyed. And there are also concerns about landslides.

But we really don't have a full picture yet, Robert, because this is a remote area and the communications have been down during most of the day. So villages up in those mountains could well have been badly affected by this, and it may be a while before we get the full scale of the - of this disaster.

SIEGEL: Phil, there was a major earthquake in the region in 2005. Accepting all of your cautions that we still don't have a full picture by any means of what's happened today, how does this quake appear to compare with that one?

REEVES: Well, this quake was much deeper. It was some 200 kilometers below ground, and scientists say that that means that it's likely to have been less severe than the one in 2005 which killed more than 75,000 people. But it is clear that there are some very tragic stories already emerging from this quake, the worst being 12 schoolgirls who, in the rush to get out of their school building, got caught up in a stampede and were killed in Northern Afghanistan. I'm afraid there will be more stories of death and injury to come out of this because we still just don't have the full picture.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Phil.

REEVES: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Philip Reeves in Kabul, Afghanistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.