At least 50 people are reported dead and 100 others missing in Afghanistan, one day after a powerful earthquake struck a wide area of Central and South Asia.

A spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program, Khalid Mansour, quotes Afghan authorities as saying that most of the casualties occurred in northern Samangan Province. The earthquake is reported to have sparked landslides that heavily impacted two remote villages in Takhdi Rustum area of the province. Mr. Mansour says the United Nations is trying to send helicopters to the area to investigate the reports. "We have no independent confirmation of the death toll," he said. "All we heard was the report, which is very alarming report from the local authorities and that's why we decided to send a couple of helicopters to confirm and assess the situation in this area."

The 7.2 magnitude quake struck Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains Sunday, shaking a wide area in neighboring countries (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, India and Kazakhstan). Earlier reports had put the death toll at five in Kabul. Officials in the Afghan capital are quoted as saying information is still being collected from other parts of the country.

Earthquakes are relatively common in this region - particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range.

In 1998, two earthquakes killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes in northern Afghan provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.