ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A massive earthquake rumbled through central Asia early Saturday, collapsing hundreds of homes on people as they slept. At least nine people were killed and officials warned the death toll would rise.
All casualty reports were in the mountains of northern Pakistan, which suffered the brunt of the quake damage. At least 14 other people were injured, officials said, but unofficial reports put the count much higher.
Officials said a true picture of the damage and casualties would not be known until relief efforts began and reports came in from the remote villages hardest hit.
Nearly all the casualties occurred when walls of houses collapsed on sleeping residents inside, officials said. Some estimates put the total number of homes destroyed or damaged at over 1,000.
The dead included two women and a child killed when their home collapsed as they slept in the Chitral region 230 miles northwest of Islamabad, government officials said.
Reports of the quake reached across central Asia from southern Pakistan to India and through Afghanistan to the southern republics of the Soviet Union.
Afghanistan's state radio said Afghan President Babrak Karmal visited areas in and around Kabul, the capital, rocked by the quake, but did not mention casualties. It said a mosque and some adjacent buildings were damaged.
In Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, the quake awakened sleeping residents and sent some fleeing outdoors for safety despite chilly weather.
One of the areas hardest hit was Pattan, 110 miles north of Islamabad, in a region where scores of homes were reported flattened. The area was hit by a quake on New Year's Eve in 1974 that killed more than 5,000 people.
In Golden, Colo., the U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. A quake of such strength can cause widespread and heavy damage, the center said.
'A quake of this magnitude is regarded as of great intensity,' said seismologist H.N. Srivastava of India's meterological office in New Delhi.
Officials in both Pakistan and the Soviet Union said the epicenter was in northeast Afghanistan about 270 miles north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, in the Hindu Kush mountain range near the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Reports from Afghanistan have been sketchy since the Soviet invasion four years ago this week and the subsequent occupation.
In Peshawar, 108 miles northwest of Islamabad, Pakistan's Upper Atmosphere Research Center said the quake hit at 4:53 a.m. local time (6:53 p.m. Friday EST).
The quake knocked out communications lines in several areas of northern Pakistan, the state-run radio said.
In India, the Press Trust of India domestic news agency reported the quake lasted about 20 seconds, rocked several towns of Punjab and Haryana, 'rattled doors and windows and sent people scampering out of their homes.'
In the Soviet Union, the official news agency Tass said the tremor rocked Soviet Central Asia, damaging old buildings but causing no injuries.