After a massive earthquake rocked Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday killing hundreds, Pope Francis on Tuesday voiced his sorrow and solidarity for victims and their families, assuring them of his prayers. “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the earthquake in the region,” an Oct. 27 telegram addressed to Archbishop Ghaleb Bader, apostolic nuncio to Pakistan, read. Signed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter relayed the Pope’s “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this disaster,” and assured Francis’ prayers for the dead, injured, and those still missing. “Upon all those who mourn the loss of loved ones and upon the civil authorities and emergency personnel involved in the relief efforts, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength.” The 7.5 magnitude earthquake tore through north-eastern Afghanistan Oct. 27. The quake's epicenter was in the country's Badakhshan province, an estimated 220 miles northeast of Kabul. The quake has so far killed more than 300 people, 12 of whom are schoolgirls who tried to escape their building. Most of the casualties have taken place in Pakistan’s northern mountainous regions, BBC News reports. Authorities on the ground have said that in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone, at least 179 people were known to have died, with more than 1,800 injured. The death toll is expected to rise in both countries, since the places most affected are remote areas where communication has been cut off. Tremors were also felt in surrounding countries, including India and Tajikistan. With a depth of 200km — 124 miles — in the earth, yesterday’s quake marks the latest in a series of serious earthquakes in South Asia this year. In April eastern Nepal was devastated when a 7.8 magnitude quake ripped through the country, which was followed by a 7.3 magnitude aftershock in May. On record, 9,000 people were killed, and roughly 900,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
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