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Strong quake hits Afghan mountains

AFGHANISTAN: A strong earthquake struck the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan on Tuesday, with tremors felt across Pakistan and India, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Kabul, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and officials at Pakistan's meteorological department said.

Authorities in Faizabad, the capital of Afghanistan's Badakhshan province and the town nearest the epicentre, were trying to contact outlying districts to assess damage and casualties, Deputy Governor Shams-Urahman said.

The mud walled houses of this impoverished part of Afghanistan are vulnerable to quakes, and their structures will have been further weakened by heavy rainfall in recent days.

The region is inaccessible at the best of times, but after heavy snow and rainfall many mountain roads were cut by landslides and bridges were swept away by torrents.

Thousands of people were killed by two earthquakes in Badakhshan province in the late 1990s. The tremors from Tuesday's quake were felt as far away as the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Children in northern Pakistan, where an earthquake killed 73,000 people in October 2005, fled screaming from their schools, a resident said.

"It continued for more than a minute," said Mohammed Wais, an official at the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development in Faizabad.

He added: "We don't see at the moment any damage in the area."

Kabul, Tuesday, Reuters.

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