Over 260 dead as earthquake strikes Afghanistan, Pakistan

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Powerful Earthquake Hits Afghanistan, India, Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A massive earthquake struck remote and impoverished regions of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, killing at least 263 people as it shook buildings across South Asia and knocked out power and communications to already-isolated areas.

The 7.5-magnitude quake was centered deep beneath the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan's sparsely populated Badakhshan province, which borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

SEE MORE: Big quake in Afghanistan and Pakistan kills at least 135

In the Afghan capital of Kabul, buildings shook for up to 45 seconds, walls cracked and cars rolled in the streets as electricity went out. Frightened workers who had just returned from lunch also rushed from swaying buildings in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and to the south in the Indian capital of New Delhi.

"I was praying when the massive earthquake rattled my home. I came out in a panic," said Munir Anwar of Liaquat Pur in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province.

At least 228 people were killed in Pakistan, with more than 1,000 injured, while Afghan officials reported 33 dead and more than 200 injured, and authorities in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region reported two deaths. Officials expected the casualty toll to rise as they reached the remote areas.

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7.5 magnitude earthquake in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
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Over 260 dead as earthquake strikes Afghanistan, Pakistan
Pakistani relatives and residents carry the coffin of a victim of the earthquake during a funeral ceremony in Peshawar on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake which rocked parts of South Asia killed 215 people on October 26, including 12 Afghan girls crushed in a stampede as they fled their collapsing school. At least 1,000 more were injured and hundreds of homes destroyed as the quake shook a swathe of the subcontinent, sending thousands of frightened people rushing into the streets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. AFP PHOTO / HASHAM AHMED (Photo credit should read HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images)
SRINAGAR, INDIA - OCTOBER 26: A woman cries as she along with others rushed out of buildings following an earthquake on October 26, 2015 in Srinagar, India. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck a remote area of North-Eastern Afghanistan in afternoon shaking the capital Kabul and killing 100 people 76 in Pakistan and 24 in Afghanistan. Two elderly women died of cardiac arrest in Kashmir Valley and a youth was killed in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. (Photo by Waseem Andrabi /Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN - OCTOBER 26: A Pakistani man carries an injured boy in his arms as he takes him to a hospital after an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed at least 70 people as it rocked south Asia, including 12 Afghan girls crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school. (Photo by Muhammad Asad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People rush an injured woman to a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
SRINAGAR - INDIA, OCTOBER 26: Traffic came to a standstill after a powerful earthquake struck northern Afghanistan, with tremors felt as widely as Pakistan and northern India on October 26, 2015 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India. The magnitude 7.5 quake was centred in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, 45km (28 miles) south-west of Jarm, the US Geological Survey reported. Over 12 people have been reportedly killed in Pakistan while in Afghanistan at least 12 schoolgirls have died in a stampede during the evacuation process. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images)
An Afghan boy looks at a damaged house following an earthquake, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. In Afghanistan's Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, at least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they tried to get out of the shaking buildings, a local official says. Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, says another 30 girls have been taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN - OCTOBER 26: A view at an hospital after an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed at least 105 people as it rocked south Asia, including 12 Afghan girls crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school. (Photo by A. Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People stand outside a house damaged from an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
People stand outside their offices after a severe earthquake is felt in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
South Asia was shaken by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake on Monday (9:32 GMT), the epicenter of which was 45 kilometers south-southwest of Jarm, Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. (Photo by Kemal Delikmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man injured in an earthquake admits at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Stranded drivers wait in their vehicles after an earthquake in Srinagar on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed at least 70 people as it rocked south Asia on October 26, including 12 Afghan girls who were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school. Thousands of frightened people rushed into the streets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as the quake shook a swathe of the subcontinent. AFP PHOTO/Tauseef MUSTAFA (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani residents stand on the rubble of houses after an earthquake in Kohat on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed at least 70 people as it rocked south Asia, including 12 Afghan girls crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school. Thousands of frightened people rushed into the streets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as the quake shook a swathe of the subcontinent. AFP PHOTO / BASIT SHAH (Photo credit should read BASIT SHAH/AFP/Getty Images)
People stand near a car damaged from an earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Afghan men look at the damage inside a warehouse at a market after a powerful earthquake hit Kabul on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed at least 74 people as it rocked parts of south Asia, including 12 Afghan girls crushed in a stampede as they fled their collapsing school. Hundreds more were injured as as the quake shook a swathe of the subcontinent, sending thousands of frightened people rushing into the streets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. AFP PHOTO / AREF KARIMI (Photo credit should read Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images)
Patients who were shifted outdoors at the government medical college hospital after a strong tremor was felt in Jammu, India, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A strong earthquake in northern Afghanistan was felt across much of South Asia on Monday, shaking buildings from Kabul to Delhi and cutting power and communications in some areas. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Patients who were shifted outdoors at the government medical college hospital sit after a strong tremor was felt in Jammu, India, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A strong earthquake in northern Afghanistan was felt across much of South Asia on Monday, shaking buildings from Kabul to Delhi and cutting power and communications in some areas. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
People stand outside their offices after a severe earthquake is felt in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN - OCTOBER 26: Debris of buildings and panicked Pakistani residents are seen in the streets following a massive earthquake in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on October 26, 2015. At least 17 killed in Pakistan after 7.5 magnitude quake rocks South Asia. (Photo by Muhammad Reza/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SRINAGAR - INDIA, OCTOBER 26: Traffic came to a standstill after a powerful earthquake struck northern Afghanistan, with tremors felt as widely as Pakistan and northern India on October 26, 2015 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India. The magnitude 7.5 quake was centred in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, 45km (28 miles) south-west of Jarm, the US Geological Survey reported. Over 12 people have been reportedly killed in Pakistan while in Afghanistan at least 12 schoolgirls have died in a stampede during the evacuation process. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images)
Patients who were shifted outdoors at the government medical college hospital after a strong tremor was felt in Jammu, India, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A strong earthquake in northern Afghanistan was felt across much of South Asia on Monday, shaking buildings from Kabul to Delhi and cutting power and communications in some areas. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Pakistani relatives move a person injured in an earthquake at a hospital in Peshawar on October 26, 2015. At least 17 people including eight children were killed in Pakistan when a 7.5 magnitude quake struck in Afghanistan October 26, officials said. AFP PHOTO / A MAJEED (Photo credit should read A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)
Patients are brought to a hospital after severe earthquake was felt in Mingora, the main town of Pakistan Swat valley, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Naveed Ali)
A girl injured in an earthquake admits to a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
A Pakistani mother waits for treatment with her daughter at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Afghan residents examine a damaged house after an earthquake in Raman Kheel village in the Panjshir valley on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed at least 70 people as it rocked south Asia on October 26, including 12 Afghan girls crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their collapsing school. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan women walk towards a damaged house following an earthquake, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. In Afghanistan's Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, at least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they tried to get out of the shaking buildings, a local official says. Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, says another 30 girls have been taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Shoes of Afghan school girls are seen on the ground after an earthquake hit in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. In Afghanistan's Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, at least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they tried to get out of the shaking buildings, a local official says. Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, says another 30 girls have been taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan. (AP Photo/Naim Rahimi)
A man looks at the lifeless body of a man who died from an earthquake outside a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Pakistani paramedics treat a man injured in an earthquake at a hospital in Peshawar on October 26, 2015. At least 17 people including eight children were killed in Pakistan when a 7.5 magnitude quake struck in Afghanistan October 26, officials said. AFP PHOTO / A MAJEED (Photo credit should read A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian office workers stand in an open area in a carpark following an earthquake in New Delhi on October 26, 2015. A strong earthquake lasting almost a minute was felt in New Delhi on October 26, with buildings shaking in the centre of the Indian capital. Tremors were also felt as far away as Islamabad in Pakistan and the Afghan capital Kabul, but not in neighbouring Nepal which was hit by a major quake in April. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian office workers stand in an open area in a carpark following an earthquake in New Delhi on October 26, 2015. A strong earthquake lasting almost a minute was felt in New Delhi on October 26, with buildings shaking in the centre of the Indian capital. Tremors were also felt as far away as Islamabad in Pakistan and the Afghan capital Kabul, but not in neighbouring Nepal which was hit by a major quake in April. AFP PHOTO / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani federal employees gather outside their offices after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Islamabad on October 26, 2015. A powerful 7.5 magnitude quake struck Afghanistan's Hindu Kush region on October 26 and was felt throughout much of South Asia, injuring more than 100 people in neighbouring Pakistan according to a doctor. AFP PHOTO / Farooq NAEEM (Photo credit should read FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)
A patient is brought to a hospital after severe earthquake was felt in Mingora, the main town of Pakistan Swat valley, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia. Strong tremors were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday. In the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran. (AP Photo/Naveed Ali)
Indian office workers stand in an open area in a carpark following an earthquake in New Delhi on October 26, 2015. A strong earthquake lasting almost a minute was felt in New Delhi on October 26, with buildings shaking in the centre of the Indian capital. Tremors were also felt as far away as Islamabad in Pakistan and the Afghan capital Kabul, but not in neighbouring Nepal which was hit by a major quake in April. AFP PHOTO / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian office workers stand in an open area in a carpark following an earthquake in New Delhi on October 26, 2015. A strong earthquake lasting almost a minute was felt in New Delhi on October 26, with buildings shaking in the centre of the Indian capital. Tremors were also felt as far away as Islamabad in Pakistan and the Afghan capital Kabul, but not in neighbouring Nepal which was hit by a major quake in April. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
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Authorities struggled to reach the hardest-hit areas in Afghanistan near the epicenter, located 73 kilometers (45 miles) south of Fayzabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.

Abdul Humayoon Dehqan, the head of the National Disaster Management Authority's provincial office, said he knew of only 12 dead and 20 injured in the province, mostly in collapsed buildings, and that his teams would not reach affected areas until Tuesday morning to get a better count.

Despite vast mineral deposits, Badakhshan is one of Afghanistan's poorest provinces. It is often hit by earthquakes, but casualty figures are usually low because it is so sparsely populated, with fewer than 1 million people spread across its vast mountains and valleys. It also suffers from floods, snowstorms and mudslides.

Taliban-led insurgents have used its remote valleys as cover recently to seize districts as they spread their footprint across the country. Dehqan said some districts remain under Taliban control "and we don't know how we will be able to help people in those areas."

In Takhar province, west of Badakhshan, 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they fled shaking buildings, said Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the provincial governor. Another 42 girls were taken to a hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.

Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah convened an emergency meeting of disaster officials and urged them to ensure that people were prepared for aftershocks. That could mean many hundreds would be forced to sleep outdoors in nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing. He instructed doctors and hospitals to be prepared to receive casualties.

President Ashraf Ghani sent condolences to those who lost relatives and property and appointed an "assessment committee" to ensure emergency relief reached the needy as soon as possible, his office said.

SEE MORE: Afghanistan Suffers Worst Earthquake Since 1949

The U.S. said it has emergency shelters and relief supply kits stored in warehouses throughout Afghanistan that could be used.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the U.S. government has been in touch with officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is ready to provide any additional support.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was completing a trip to the U.S., said in a televised comment from London that he planned to fly to the quake-affected region Tuesday. He called the quake a "tragedy," saying most of the casualties and damage were reported in remote areas in the country's northwest.

Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, ordered troops to the areas, the military said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had contacted Sharif to offer help, Pakistani state-run media said. Pakistani TV said Sharif thanked Modi for the offer but provided no further details.

Pakistan will not issue any appeals to the international community for help as the country has the required resources to carry out the rescue and relief work, said Information Minister Pervez Rashid.

"We have enough resources to handle the situation. Our top priority is to help those affected because of the earthquake," Rashid told a news conference.

SEE MORE: Deadly Earthquake Rocks Afghanistan

Pakistani meteorological department official Zahid Rafiq said the quake was felt across the country. As buildings in Islamabad shook, panicked residents poured into the streets, and many recited verses from the Quran.

Many Pakistanis recall the 7.6-magnitude earthquake of Oct. 8, 2005, that killed more than 80,000 people and left more than 3 million homeless, most in the northwest of the country and in the divided region of Kashmir.

That quake was much shallower than Monday's -- 10 kilometers (6 miles) below the surface, compared with 213 kilometers (130 miles) -- and thus caused greater damage, said Mohammad Hanif, an official at the Meteorological Department.

Massive earthquakes throughout the last decade:

In Srinagar, the main city in the India-controlled portion of Kashmir, tremors lasted at least 40 seconds, with buildings swaying and electrical wires swinging wildly, residents said.

People ran from buildings shouting, crying and chanting religious hymns to try to keep calm.

"I thought it was the end of the world," shopkeeper Iqbal Bhat said.

Kashmir's Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma said the quake had caused limited damage, though in some areas "many houses and government buildings have developed cracks, and some have also partially collapsed."

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