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Earthquake death toll rises in Afghanistan, Pakistan

A major earthquake hit northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, sending shock waves across southern Asia where the number of dead and injured was on the rise.

The quake's epicenter was 213 kilometers (130 miles) deep and 73 km (45 miles) southeast of Feyzabad in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initially measured the quake's intensity at 7.7 then revised it down to 7.6, and later to 7.5.

At least 200 people died in Pakistan and roughly 1,000 more were reported injured, NBC News reported, citing officials. In Afghanistan, 73 people were reported dead, with more than 300 injured.

Debris of buildings and panicked Pakistani residents are seen in the streets following a massive earthquake in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on October 26, 2015.
Muhammad Reza | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Debris of buildings and panicked Pakistani residents are seen in the streets following a massive earthquake in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on October 26, 2015.

At least 12 students at a girls' school died in a stampede as they tried to escape shaking buildings in Afghanistan's Takhar province, according to the AP. Another 42 girls were taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.

Buildings shook violently in Kabul and tremors were felt across northwestern Pakistan and its central Punjab province. Structures shook for well over a minute in the Indian capital, New Delhi, sending office workers scurrying onto the streets.

A Facebook update by the Pakistan Red Crescent, a charity organization, said disaster response teams had been deployed to the most severely affected regions, while rescue teams were bringing injured citizens to hospitals in the Peshawar province.

A spokesperson for the group's umbrella organization, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told CNBC most of the heavy damage took place in the northeast. Locals were hampered with landslides and roadblocks caused by debris, said Gorkhmaz Huseynov, head of delegation for IFRC Pakistan.

However, the earthquake may leave less of a mark than previous natural disasters, given that the epicenter was not as densely populated. Similarly, construction quality will hugely determine the extent of the damage.

"What we're hearing is that a lot of mud houses collapsed, but not huge buildings," Huseynov said.

With rescue operations and armies deployed, he expects more reliable information within three days.

"We need to still be a bit more patient to see the extent of damage," he added.

PRAKASH SINGH | AFP | Getty Images

The earthquake struck almost exactly six months after Nepal suffered its worst quake on record on April 24. Including the toll from a major aftershock in May, 9,000 people lost their lives and 900,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Rosemarie North, an employee with the IFRC, told CNBC that Monday's quake could be felt in Nepal's capital of Kathmandu.

Usually based in Delhi, North was posted in Nepal to help with earthquake recovery operations when the tremor hit and quickly took cover under her desk. She said no noticeable damage in the area had yet been reported.

The mountainous region is a seismically active area, with earthquakes the result of the Indian subcontinent driving into and under the Eurasian landmass.

Such tectonic shifts can cause enormous and destructive releases of energy.

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck northern Pakistan just over a decade ago, on October 8, 2005, killing about 75,000 people.

—Reuters and AP contributed to this report