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Major Earthquake Rocks South Asia


A powerful earthquake rocked South Asia Saturday, with hundreds of people feared dead or injured from Afghanistan to India. Officials say the earthquake, centered in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, may have caused massive casualties across the region, with Pakistan the hardest hit.

Chaos in Islamabad as hundreds of people join a desperate search for survivors.

A 10-story building collapsed as the 7.6 magnitude earthquake jolted the region just before nine o'clock Saturday morning.

Neighborhood residents say hundreds of people may have been trapped in the rubble or killed outright. Mohammad Rafiq says he saw desperate families digging through the debris looking for survivors.

"The problem is this, the upper six floors are totally vanished," he said. "I don't think any people who were in the upper stories, they can survive."

But this was only one small spot. The quake rocked buildings from New Delhi to Kabul, sending people screaming in fear into the streets. As the day wore on, rescue teams struggled to reach remote areas close to the quake's epicenter, near the border between the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir.

Causality figures crept up throughout the day. Two children were reported dead in the Afghan city of Jalalabad. Fifteen Indian soldiers in Kashmir died in a landslide. An eight-year-old boy in Indian Kashmir was crushed to death when the walls of his house collapsed. The total death toll in India passed 150 by mid-afternoon, and kept climbing.

But early reports suggest Pakistan suffered the most

Officials say the quake triggered massive landslides in northern Pakistan, in places burying whole villages. Pakistan's Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao, told a local news program that entire villages been wiped out. He said the number of casualties could be "massive."

A spokesman for President Pervez Musharraf said Saturday afternoon the death toll in Pakistan could run into the thousands.

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