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Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 07:49 UK

Deadly quakes strike Afghanistan

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Villagers sift through the rubble

Two moderate earthquakes have hit eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 22 people and destroying about 200 homes, officials say.

The US Geological Survey says a 5.5-magnitude quake struck at 0157 local time (2127 GMT), followed by a 5.1-magnitude aftershock two hours later.

The quakes struck in Nangarhar province, about 50 miles (80km) east of Kabul near the Pakistan border.

At least four villages were reported to have suffered serious damage.

A provincial official in Jalalabad told the BBC that at least 30 people were also reported to be injured and that rescuers had been sent to the scene to retrieve bodies and help those hurt.

The official said he feared the death toll could go higher.

Quake-prone

Ahmad Shekib Hamraz, a disaster management official, told AFP news agency "the centre of the earthquake is located 45km (28 miles) from Sherzad district".

Sherzad district, file pic
An earlier photograph of Sherzad district, said to have been hit

Survivors in Mir Gadkhel village were scrambling through the rubble of flattened houses to recover bodies after the quake, Reuters reported.

"Three of my family members were killed and seven are injured," villager Gul Mohammad said.

"I think about 40 people have died. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed."

The earthquake is in a remote area that is difficult to reach by vehicle, the BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says.

The mountains of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan are hit by dozens of minor earthquakes every year.

Because many Afghan homes are made of dried mud, even minor tremors can cause high casualties and widespread damage, our correspondent says.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake that rocked north-west Pakistan in October 2005 killed 74,000 people and displaced 3.5 million.



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