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Earthquake Hits Pakistan, Kills 25

November 21, 2002

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) _ A large earthquake rattled a remote mountainous region of northern Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 25 people, officials said.

The pre-dawn temblor hit the Gilgit region, about 240 miles north of Peshawar, said Jehangir Khan, an official with the Ministry of Kashmiri Affairs in Islamabad. Aftershocks rumbled for several hours.

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said the quake’s magnitude was 5.5. The U.S. Geologic Survey in Golden, Colo., said the earthquake measured 5.8, and put the epicenter at about 30 miles south-southeast of Gilgit, in the Himalayan foothills.

Khan said the hardest-hit villages _ Turbling, Mushin, Dashkin and Harchu _ have a combined population of more than 6,000. The quake sent people fleeing from their crumbling houses.

``We are expecting the casualties may rise,″ Khan told The Associated Press. ``We do not have a number for the injured.″

Police official Rafiq Hussain said by telephone from Gilgit that 25 people were killed in the quake, including women and children crushed when their homes collapsed around them.

As the injured were rushed to hospitals, the search for more victims was continuing, Hussain said. But the hardest-hit areas were hilly and hard-to-reach, hampering rescue efforts, he said.

A massive dust cloud, caused by the quake, reduced visibility to 30 yards, making it difficult for helicopters carrying medical and other supplies to land, Khan said.

Relief supplies were being trucked in, including 4,000 blankets and 500 tents, but landslides triggered by the quake cut off the road leading to the Astore valley.

``We cannot get there,″ Khan said. ``All road and telephone communications are down.″

It was the second deadly earthquake in the region this month.

At least 17 people were killed, 65 injured and four villages extensively damaged by a Nov. 3 earthquake and subsequent mudslides in the region.

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