The United States Geological Survey (USGS) on Friday confirmed that a magnitude 6.3 earthquake had struck Afghanistan's northeast region, just across the border from neighboring Tajikistan. According to early reports, tremors could be felt as far south as Islamabad, Pakistan, and parts of India. No immediate fatalities were reported.
The USGS stated Friday that the quake occurred 175 miles northeast of Kabul and about 51 miles southeast of the border mountain town of Feyzabad, at a depth of around 203 kilometers (126.5 miles). Officials noted that the quake had struck just after midnight and lasted around one minute.
"[It was a] very strong earthquake," Afghanistan-based reporter Mustafa Kazemi tweeted. "The first tremor cut the power of our area." Another Afghan journalist on the scene tweeted that there were at least five civilians being treated for "minor injuries" in the Nigarhar province. "Never felt an earth quake this powerful," wrote Bilal Sarwary. "All hospitals are on standby."
The AP reported Friday that civilians in Islamabad had rushed into the streets after feeling the initial tremors, despite the chilly winter weather. Several citizens told reporters that they would were fearful of re-entering their homes because of potential violent aftershocks. One young girl said she and her family had begun reciting verses from the Quran to stay calm.
In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, authorities confirmed a total of at least 18 non-critical injuries. Two-hundred miles from the quake's epicenter in Peshawar, officials reported an additional 30 non-life-threatening injuries mainly due to collapsing walls and rooftops. District Officer Muhmand Asim Khan explained to CNN on Friday that the farming region of Ishkashim, the epicenter of Friday's quake, was also prone to earthquakes due to the fact that much of its population is impoverished and lives in mud-brick homes.
The depth of Friday's quake likely prevented any serious destruction in terms of both human casualties and property or infrastructure damage this time around. According to a 2013 study out of the California Institute of Technology, shallower quakes tend to cause much more damage than those at a depth of at least six to seven miles, largely because the ripple effect at that depth is less likely to spread to the surface and cause ruptures in the crust.
The 7.5 Hindu Kush earthquake in October appears to have been an exception to that rule. Occurring at a depth of nearly 210 kilometers (130 miles), the deadly quake killed a total of nearly 400 people, mostly in Pakistan, and left a swath of destruction and toppled infrastructure across three countries, including Afghanistan and India.