MIR GADKHEL, Afghanistan - Villagers in eastern Afghanistan wailed in grief and scrambled through rubble on Friday to recover the bodies of dozens of people feared killed by a 5.5 magnitude earthquake.
Residents of the village of Mir Gadkhel said they thought dozens had been killed there. A Reuters cameraman also counted about 10 dead bodies in another nearby village, Sar Kot.
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 Mir Gadkhel, about 45 km (30 miles) west of the Afghan city of Jalalabad.
The U.S. Geological Survey said a 5.5 magnitude quake hit the area just before 2 a.m. on Friday (5:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday), followed by a 5.1 magnitude aftershock two hours later.
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.
President Hamid Karzai's office said at least 20 people had died, and Karzai had expressed his deep condolences.
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 19 people were confirmed dead but the toll would rise as more bodies were recovered from the rubble.
In Sar Kot, women huddled over dead bodies of children, crying and slapping their heads in grief. Farm animals were trapped under the rubble of homes, all built from mud brick.
The villages are located between Jalalabad and the capital Kabul, in Nangarhar, a province that sees sporadic attacks by Taliban insurgents. But there were no immediate reports on Friday of security incidents near the quake zone.