Officials Fear 5,000 Dead
In Afghan Earthquake


Afghan officials say nearly 5,000 people may have been killed by a pair of devastating earthquakes that struck the mountains in the northern part of Afghanistan.
At least 4,000 are injured and 20,000 homeless after the two tremors struck near the town of Nahrin in the Hindu Kush mountains. Early reports say that Nahrin, in the Baghlan province, may have been leveled.
About 600 bodies were recovered by early afternoon from villages still shaking from the aftershocks, Afghan defense officials told The Associated Press news agency on Tuesday.
Powerful aftershocks, treacherous terrain and wintry weather were hindering rescue parties working on the mountain slopes, officials said.
The epicenter, about 90 miles north of Kabul, is a seven-hour overland ride.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site, the quakes struck the area on Monday evening and early Tuesday morning.
A 6.0 magnitude quake rattled the region at 7:26 p.m. Monday (9:56 a.m. ET), while a 5.0 magnitude quake hit the same region at 2:15 a.m. Tuesday (4:45 p.m. ET Monday).
While the death toll was initially reported at about 100, later reports from the quake-prone area showed just how much damage had been done.
Because of primitive communications it often takes days for reports to become available.
Earthquakes and seismic activity are common in this part of the world and particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains, though they are not usually felt over such a wide area.
A 6.9-magnitude quake based in the same region on May 30, 1998, killed more than 4,000 people and injured many more
Earlier this month a quake measuring 7.2 also hit the region 240 kilometers north-northeast of Kabul, and was felt over a wide area including Pakistan, northern India and the Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizia.
That quake was the strongest in the region since 1983, killing an estimated 100 people, leaving another 500 homeless and destroying 1,000 acres of land and livestock.
While quakes of magnitude 6.0 cause little damage in well-designed buildings, they can cause major havoc in poorly constructed buildings.
There were no reports of injuries to U.S. troops stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul and at Kandahar.
But America would assist the interim government and local Afghans in dealing with this tragedy, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Kahalilzad said.

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