ISLAMABAD/KABUL - A major earthquake struck a remote area of northern Afghanistan on Monday, killing nearly 300 people there and in neighboring Pakistan, and injuring more than 1,700.
Centered 82 kilometers southeast of Feyzabad in a remote area of the Hindu Kush mountain range and at a depth of 212 kilometers (131 miles), the quake registered at a magnitude of 7.5, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The hardest-hit area reported so far is Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where officials have confirmed at least 140 people killed and more than 1,000 injured.
WATCH: Video of earthquake aftermath in Afghanistan
Pakistan military chief General Raheel Sharif mobilized troops and helicopters to immediately distribute rescue equipment to the region.
Fifty-nine people are reported dead in Afghanistan, but the number could rise dramatically, according to the country's CEO, Abdullah Abdullah.
The death toll in Afghanistan includes 12 schoolchildren who were killed in a stampede as they rushed out of shaking buildings in Takhar province. An eyewitness in Jalalabad tells VOA the quake sent people scrambling for cover.
"We have not seen an earthquake this powerful. I was sleeping when I felt earth shaking. I ran out for safety," he said.
The massive earthquake also triggered landslides in mountainous northern and northwestern Pakistan. The army said rubble has blocked the road in five places along the Karakoram Highway (KKH), the only road link between Pakistan and China.
An aerial assessment of damage in the quake zone may not be available until Tuesday morning, military officials noted.
The USGS registered two smaller tremors with magnitudes of 4.7 and 4.8 in the same region within 90 minutes of the major quake.
Reports said buildings also swayed in the Indian capital New Delhi, forcing office workers out into the streets.
The earthquake comes six months after a devastating quake in Nepal killed thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.
The mountainous region is seismically active, with earthquakes the result of the Indian subcontinent driving into and under the Eurasian landmass.
On Oct. 8, 2005, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck northern Pakistan, killing about 75,000 people.
*For updates on this breaking story, follow VOA reporters Ayesha Tanzeem on Twitter in Kabul and Ayaz Gul in Islamabad
Victoria Macchi contributed to this report from Washington. VOA's Urdu news service contributed to this report.