Wednesday, March 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

1800 feared dead in Afghan quake

Kabul, March 26
Up to 1,800 persons were feared killed and around 10,000 made homeless when a severe earthquake wiped out an isolated rural town in northern Afghanistan, UN and Afghan officials said today.

GraphicThe first shockwave measuring up to 6 on the Richter scale struck around 7.30 pm (8.30 IST) yesterday, destroying the town of Nahrin in Baghlan province, some 175 km north of Kabul, they said.

A major rescue effort involving European troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) based in Kabul was being planned, but Afghan officials said help was needed urgently.

Minister for Water and Natural Resources Haji Mangal Hussain told the Pakistan-based AIP that more than 1,800 persons had been killed in and around Nahrin, and the toll could rise.

“The earthquake caused devastation in the eastern parts of Baghlan province, particularly in Nahrin district,” Mr Hussain said, referring to the impoverished farming community of mostly mud-brick homes.

Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Mira Jan said 600 bodies had already been recovered from Nahrin after the second devastating earthquake to have hit the impoverished northern provinces of Afghanistan this month.

“Around 4,000 houses have been destroyed and 10,000 persons have been displaced and made homeless. Most shops and houses in Nahrin were destroyed and most people have fled to the hills,” he said.

“There are still shocks going on every two hours or so. So far we have not managed to get any help or relief to the area,” he said. The quake was centred in the Hindu Kush mountains around 120 km north of Kabul, according to seismological officials in Pakistan.

A report said all Indians, including the diplomatic staff of the Indian mission in Kabul, are safe in Afghanistan. “Our embassy has not been affected by the earthquake”, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said.

Troops from the British-led international security force in Kabul had been asked to help with rescue efforts, said UN spokeswomen Rebecca Richards. AFP, UNIBack

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