A strong, 7.2 magnitude earthquake just struck in southernwestern Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. (Note at 4:14 p.m. ET: USGS just revised the magnitude; earlier it put it at 7.4.)
We'll pass on more information as it comes in. As you can see from this USGS map below, the epicenter is close to the border with Afghanistan (just to the north of the marker).
Update at 6:45 p.m. ET: According to a report from the AP, damage appears to have been limited:
"The closest town to the epicenter was Dalbandin, with a population around 15,000 people, and is so remote that the nearby Chagai hills were the site of Pakistan's 1998 nuclear tests."
"There was no word on damage in Dalbandin. But another town close to the epicenter, Karan, suffered no major damage, said Fateh Bangar, Karan's deputy commissioner. The town was some 45 miles (70 kilometers) from the epicenter, he said."
Update at 4:35 p.m. ET: According to the USGS' estimates, the earthquake occurred at a depth of about 52 miles — which, judging from USGS' definitions — would make it a fairly "deep" event.
Reuters says that "fears of major damage in the remote area eased when the U.S. agency revised an initial estimate that the quake was very shallow and said it probably centered at a depth of 52 miles [and happened] 34 miles west of Dalbandin, a town of about 15,000 people. It had earlier said the quake, at 1:23 a.m. local time on Wednesday ... had been at only about 6 miles depth and of a magnitude of 7.4."
Update at 4:25 p.m. More about the region hit by today's quake, from the BBC:
"The area hit by the recent earthquake is sparsely populated and is located in a seismically active zone. The historic city of Bam, west of the latest epicentre inside Iran, was devastated by an earthquake in 2003. The Pakistani province of Baluchistan is a focus of some militant activity, sharing a long and porous border with conflict zones in southern Afghanistan."
U.S. Geological Survey map showing location of a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, Jan. 18, 2011, in Pakistan.
U.S. Geological Survey map showing location of a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, Jan. 18, 2011, in Pakistan. usgs.gov
Update at 4:20 p.m. ET. The Associated Press reminds us that:
"Earthquakes often rattle the region. A magnitude 7.6 quake on Oct. 8, 2005, killed about 80,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and Kashmir and left more than 3 million homeless."
The area where today's quake struck, however, appears to be far less populated than the region struck in 2005.