Strong earthquake strikes off southwestern Pakistan

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 has struck just off the coast of southwestern Pakistan, seismologists and residents say. Only few details were immediately available.

The earthquake, which happened at 3:03 a.m. local time on Wednesday, was centered in the sea about 23 kilometers (14 miles) southwest of the fishing town of Pasni in Gwadar District, or 90 kilometers (56 miles) southeast of Turbat and 388 kilometers (241 miles) west of Karachi.

Pakistan’s National Seismic Monitoring Center put the preliminary magnitude of Wednesday’s earthquake at 6.4, while the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the magnitude at 6.3. Both said the quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), making it a very shallow earthquake.

Details about damage or casualties were not immediately available, but computer models from the USGS estimated that as many as 2.4 million people may have felt the earthquake, including 58,000 people who may have experienced “strong” to “very strong” shaking.

“Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist,” the USGS said in its computer-generated assessment. “Some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localized.”

Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are regularly hit by moderate and strong earthquakes, especially around the Hindu Kush range. More than 79,000 people were killed in October 2005 when a powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

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