- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

From combined dispatches

KABUL, Afghanistan A powerful earthquake hit swaths of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan at midday yesterday, shaking house foundations and jolting cities across 400 miles of Central and South Asia. Some damage and minor injuries were reported in the Afghan capital.

The quake's epicenter was in the same province where more than 8,000 people were killed by two quakes in 1998.

The magnitude-5.8 quake was centered about 180 miles north of Peshawar, Pakistan, in the Hindu Kush mountain range of Afghanistan, said Abdul Rashid, seismologist at the Pakistani government's meteorological office. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.0. An official with the India Meteorological Department put the scale of the quake at 6.3.

The quake struck at 12:05 p.m. and was felt in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, the northern city of Peshawar and the eastern city of Lahore. No injuries or damages were reported in Pakistan, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

More than 300 miles away, in the old city of Kabul, the Afghan capital, several walls surrounding housing compounds cracked and crumbled. One crying woman was taken to a hospital with light injuries, covered in dust and specks of blood. She apparently was washing her clothes when a wall fell on top of her.

At the airport north of the city, the entire tower shook violently and people ran from the building, but no damage was visible.

Also, pieces of several bullet-ridden abandoned buildings in Kabul fell to the ground. Many buildings in and around Kabul are unsafe after many years of shelling and abandonment.

Speaking by satellite phone from Talooqan, resident Mohammed Osman described the quake as "very intense," but said he had not heard of any damage.

Takhar and adjacent Badakhshan were struck twice by earthquakes in 1998 that killed 8,500 people and destroyed tens of thousands of houses. They measured 6.1 and 6.9 on the Richter scale.

"Villages are isolated and mostly inaccessible, so it will require a lot of time to have a clear idea of the size of destruction and casualties," Mr. Osman said.

In Islamabad, the quake lasted more than 30 seconds and shook house foundations and light fixtures. In Peshawar, near the Afghan border, the shaking was continuing more than 10 minutes after the initial temblor.

The tremor also could be felt more mildly in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, where no damage was visible.

In Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, the quake was felt for 35 seconds, sending residents out of their homes and into the streets.

Farther north, in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, families left their shaken homes in panic.

Earthquakes and seismic activity are common in this part of the world and particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains, though they are not usually felt over such a wide area.

Bruce Presgrave, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, said in Colorado that the area within a 60-mile radius of yesterday's quake has had 18 quakes of magnitude-6.0 or higher since 1990.

He said the relative depth of yesterday's earthquake 75 miles below the surface would mitigate probable damage.

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