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Afghanistan: Over 1,500 Feared Dead In Earthquakes

Kabul, 26 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- At least 1,500 people are feared dead in an earthquake that hit Afghanistan last night and this morning. The exact number of casualties from the tremors which shook Baghlan Province, north of Kabul, is not yet clear. But Afghan and international officials speak of least 1,500 and possibly as many as 1,800 dead.

Mohammed Nadir, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told RFE/RL, "The exact figure of the dead bodies is not completely clear here, but according to the [interim administration], more than 1,800 people have been killed in this earthquake."

The district capital of Nahrin, 175 kilometers north of Kabul, was reported completely destroyed.

The quake measured 6.0 on the Richter scale and struck yesterday, with aftershocks continuing overnight and this morning. The epicenter was in the Hindu Kush Mountains but it was felt as far as the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

This is the second major earthquake to hit northern Afghanistan this month. Hamid Karzai, head of the interim administration, has called off a trip to Turkey tomorrow because of the crisis.