Major Earthquake in South Asia Leaves At Least 260 Dead

A man wheels a body of a woman, who died in an earthquake, at the Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Monday. A powerful earthquake struck a remote area of northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, shaking Kabul, as shock waves were felt in northern India and in Pakistan's capital, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them. Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

Updated | A major earthquake that struck northern Afghanistan has killed at least 260 people in the country and in neighboring Pakistan.

More than 228 people so far have been reported killed, and at least 1,000 injured in Pakistan, and at least 33 deaths and more than 200 injured have been reported in Afghanistan. Officials expect the death toll to increase in the coming hours and days as remote areas in both countries are accessed. In one incident, at least 12 school girls died in a stampede as they fled shaking buildings in Takhar province, northeastern Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, "significant casualties are likely" from the 7.5-magnitude quake. The epicenter of the quake was in the remote Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan, striking at a depth of 132 miles, the USGS said. In Kabul, the Afghan capital, buildings shook for 45 seconds and electricty shut off, while in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, tremors rumbled for up to two minutes.

The Associated Press reported the current death toll at 263. Communications throughout the Hindu Kush are down, and the death toll could continue to rise once information trickles in from the surrounding areas.

The quake caused strong tremors across South Asia, leading buildings to shake in Kabul, the Afghan capital, as well as in Islamabad and New Delhi. Kabul is approximately 624 miles from New Delhi. Office workers in the Indian capital rushed outdoors after the tremors were felt.

People stand on a road divider after vacating buildings following an earthquake in New Delhi, India, October 26. Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, tweeted that the earthquake was one of the worst to hit the country for decades, and advised people to stay outdoors while the threat of aftershocks remains. He also said the Afghan government has asked aid agencies for assistance.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted his support for the victims:

Heard about strong earthquake in Afghanistan-Pakistan region whose tremors have been felt in parts of India. I pray for everyone's safety.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015

David Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences at the Open University, says the quake was caused by the same tectonic shifting which caused the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April, triggering an avalanche on Mount Everest and killing more than 8,400 people. Both are the result of the Indian subcontinent colliding with the Central Asian landmass, says Rothery.

Rothery says the quake will likely have a lower casualty count than the one that hit Nepal, because of the depth of the epicenter. "The ground will shake for the same length of time, but the intensity of the shaking is absorbed by the 200 kilometers of rock between the source and the surface," he says.

However, he warns that the landscape of the Hindu Kush region—which is remote and mountainous—means that landslides are a likely result. "You've got villages in valleys, rocky mountains above. You could have boulders bouncing down or big landslides. I fear we might hear over the coming hours or days of whole villages cut off or buried by landslides," says Rothery.

The region has been subject to major quakes before. In 2005, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Kashmir in northern Pakistan, killing more than 88,000 people and injuring more than 69,000.

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.