Hundreds buried alive under rubble, 1,000 feared dead in major Asian earthquake

A strong earthquake reportedly leveled several villages 

A major earthquake shook cities and villages across the south Asian subcontinent on Saturday. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.6, struck at 0350 GMT. It was centred about 95 km (60 miles) northeast of Islamabad, near the Indian border, and was followed by a series of four aftershocks of magnitudes between 5.4 and 5.9.

"We have reports that several entire villages have been wiped out," Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said. Scores of people were feared killed or trapped in two 12-storey apartment blocks reduced to rubble in Islamabad. Screams were heard from across Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, as people fled homes, shops and offices fearing they would be buried under rubble. Men spontaneously started reading out verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book, and women beat their chests in a traditional display of bereavement. "This is the strongest earthquake I have ever witnessed in my life," Srinagar resident Aisha Begum, 84, said.

Major Asian earthquake levels villages and cities, killing more than 1,000 - photo gallery 

"There are reports of buildings collapsing in several cities in central Pakistan. We have no exact estimates but the casualties could be very high," a federal government official told Agence France Presse. A number of bloodstained people could be seen trapped beneath huge stone slabs in Islamabad while desperate cries for help could be heard. There were also reports of houses and structures collapsing in other northern cities and towns, although details were unclear as phone lines and roads were cut.

"I just cannot say how many people are still under there and we are trying to evacuatethem. Over 75 apartments were affected so the number of people is in the hundreds," said Mohammad Ali, a government official in Islamabad.

The quake was also felt in the Indian and Afghan capitals. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) situated the earthquake on its website between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir with a magnitude of 7.6. It described the quake as "major", saying it took place at a depth of 10km.

Source: agencies
Photos by AP

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Author`s name Olga Savka