Villagers in eastern Afghanistan wailed in grief and scrambled through rubble today to recover the bodies of dozens of people feared killed in an earthquake.
Mohammad Tahir Zahir, deputy head of the provincial council of Nangarhar province, said 40 people had died. Abdul Mateen Edraak, head of Afghanistan's National Disaster and Preparedness Centre, said 18 people were confirmed dead but the toll would rise as more bodies were recovered from the rubble.
Residents of the village of Mir Gadkhel said they thought dozens had been killed there.
"Three of my family members were killed and seven are injured. I think about 40 people have died. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed," Gul Mohammad said in the village, about 45 km (30 miles) west of the Afghan city of Jalalabad.
At one spot, a father wept by the bodies of a daughter and two sons. Nearby lay the bodies of a man and two women.
"I was sleeping when the earthquake happened. We went out for a bit and went back into the house. Then there was another tremor which was very strong. The roof came down and killed my brother and his two children," said Amrullah, a small boy fighting tears.
About 50 women in black scarves gathered in a road, wailing.
In Sar Kot, another village in the area women gathered around the dead bodies of children, crying and slapping their heads in grief. A Reuters cameraman counted about 10 dead bodies in the village and about 12 houses destroyed there.
Farm animals were trapped under the rubble of homes, all built from mud brick.
The US Geological Survey said a 5.5 magnitude quake hit the area just before 2 a.m. on Friday (2130 GMT on Thursday), followed by a 5.1 magnitude aftershock two hours later.
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