Earthquake kills at least 140 as it shakes Pakistan and India

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The Independent Online

A severe earthquake of magnitude 6.9 rolled across the entire Indian subcontinent today, killing at least 140 people as it rocked buildings from Pakistan to India to Nepal.

A severe earthquake of magnitude 6.9 rolled across the entire Indian subcontinent today, killing at least 140 people as it rocked buildings from Pakistan to India to Nepal.

The home minister of Gujarat state said that 130 people had died there, and described destruction in the city of Ahmedabad, the region's commercial center.

"Forty buildings have collapsed in Ahmedabad alone and 100 buildings have fallen all over Gujarat," he said. "The whole state has been affected. Communications have been disrupted all over the state."

He said the army was on alert and a rapid force had been called in to help dig through the rubble.

At least 18 bodies were pulled from the rubble after two buildings collapsed in the Indian city of Surat, 580 miles west of New Delhi, police official M.B. Tethani said by phone from Gujarat state. He said the death toll was expected to rise.

In Pakistan, a child and an adult died when their two-story home collapsed in the Pakistani city of Hyderabad, rescue workers said.

The 6.9-magnitude quake was centered in the Rann of Kutch desert plateau on the border between India and Pakistan, the Indian Meteorological Institute said. The epicenter was reportedly 190 miles southeast of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, with 14 million people.

The quake hit in India at 8:50 a.m. (0320 GMT). Residents of the capital, New Delhi, endured about a minute of shaking.

In Bombay, the Indian financial and entertainment capital, 700 miles southwest of New Delhi, some people rushed into the streets and those in high-rise buildings held onto doorways as they watched their pictures and cupboards shake.

It was the same in Madras, on the eastern coast, and in Pondicherry, farther to the south, where people began fleeing a Republic Day parade in panic until officials on loudspeakers calmed them.

The quake hit just before a Republic Day parade in New Delhi, where thousands of police and soldiers were on alert against a terrorist attack. No panic was reported at the parade, attended by India's top government and military leaders and foreign guests.

Meanwhile, millions of Hindu pilgrims attending the Kumbh Mela festival in eastern Uttar Pradesh, 930 miles east of Karachi, felt the ground sway beneath them, but there was no panic reported.

There were differing reports over the epicenter of the quake, with meteorologists in Peshawar, Pakistan, reporting that it was in the Arabian Sea, 1,200 miles south of that city. Earlier, a meteorologist in Karachi, Pakistan, said the quake had a magnitude of 5.5 according to preliminary measurements.

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