Panic as major quake hits Pakistan

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Islamabad, Jan 19 (AFP) A powerful earthquake rockedsouthwest Pakistan today, sending panicked people rushing fromtheir homes in fear of their lives and being felt as far awayas India and the Gulf.

The 7.2 magnitude quake struck at 1:23 am (0153 IST),around 50 kilometres west of the town of Dalbandin, close tothe border with Afghanistan, the US Geological Survey (USGS)said.

Television footage showed terrified people fleeingtheir houses in cold conditions, reciting verses from theKoran.

Rescue services said that they were on alert after thequake in the sparsely populated area but had received noemergency calls and there were no initial reports ofcasualties.

Strong tremors were felt as far away as the Indiancapital New Delhi, around 1,300 kilometres away, as well asseveral other cities across northwestern India, though therewere no reports of any damage.

Data on the USGS website suggested the quake had alsobeen felt across in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The USGS said the quake had a magnitude of 7.2 and hitat a depth of 84 kilometres, revising down an earlier reportof 7.4-magnitude.

The initial bulletin from USGS said the earthquake hitjust 10 kilometres below the surface. At that depth, quakescan cause major destruction and loss of life.

Pakistan''s Meteorological Department gave a magnitudeof 7.3 and located the epicentre 55 kilometres northwest ofKharan, a town in the thinly populated southwesternBaluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

"The earthquake occurred at around 1:23 am and it wasfelt in Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab provinces,"chief meteorologist Mohammad Riaz told AFP.

"There could be aftershocks during the next week --there are active fault lines in Baluchistan."

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center saidthere was no chance of the inland quake causing a tsunami inthe Indian Ocean.

Northern Pakistan was hit by a 7.6-magnitudeearthquake on October 8, 2005 that killed more than 73,000people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly inPakistan-occupied Kashmir and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwaprovince.

The country is still battling back from thedevastating effects of floods last year. (AFP)

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