Strong quake hits Afghan-Pakistani border region

A strong earthquake early Tuesday struck remote northeastern Afghanistan and shook neighboring Pakistan, the scene of a devastating quake two months ago. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.7 quake was centered in the remote Hindu Kush mountains of northeastern Afghanistan. It struck shortly before 3 a.m. local time in Pakistan (2200GMT), shortly before 2:30 a.m. in Afghanistan.

The quake, centered about 105 kilometers (65 miles) southeast of Faizabad in the sparsely populated Badakhshan province, was felt more than 320 kilometers (200 miles) away in Islamabad, Pakistan, and in Kabul, where the shaking lasted several seconds.

Abdul Majid, governor of the Badakhshan province, told The Associated Press the ground there shook for two minutes. He said he had no information about any damage in the mountainous region, where communication with remote districts is difficult.

"It was a strong earthquake," said provincial police chief Shah Jahan Noori. He said he had been unable to contact with remote districts of the province, which reaches to the Pakistani border, and also had no information about damage or casualties. Noori and Majid spoke from Faizabad.

The area is about 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the center of the Oct. 8 quake that killed about 87,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and Indian Kashmir. Salim Akhtar, an official at the Peshawar earthquake center, said he did not consider it an aftershock of the October quake.

The tremor sent people scurrying outside in areas hit by the October quake, Pakistani television stations reported. The stations also reported landslides near the town of Bagh in Pakistani Kashmir, one of the areas worst hit by the October quake. A magnitude-6 quake can cause severe damage.

The area stretching across Pakistan into India and Afghanistan is a hotbed for seismic activity that erupts each time the plates of the Indian subcontinent slam into Asia.

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake centered in neighboring Takhar province killed up to 5,000 people in 1998, and a 5.8-magnitude quake in northeastern Afghanistan in 2002 killed up to 1,000 people. But other strong quakes in the thinly populated region have been far less deadly.

Reports of damage and casualties are usually slow to emerge following quakes affecting the isolated communities of flimsy mud houses that dot the inaccessible valleys of Badakhshan, an impoverished province that also borders Tajikistan and China, reports the AP. I.L.

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