Nearly 1,000 dead in powerful Afghanistan earthquake
Kabul/Peshawar — An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 killed 920 people in Afghanistan early on Wednesday, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.
Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground.
Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said an interior ministry official, Salahuddin Ayubi.
“The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to collect details.”
Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest since 2002. It struck about 44km from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.
Most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern province of Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, Ayubi added. In the province of Khost, 25 were dead and 90 had been taken to hospital.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban, offered his condolences in a statement.
Mounting a rescue operation could prove a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country in August and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions.
Shaking was felt by about 119-million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the EMSC said on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.
“Strong and long jolts,” a resident of the Afghan capital, Kabul, posted on the website of the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).
“It was strong,” said a resident of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
The EMSC put the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1, though the USGS said it was 5.9.
Adding to the challenge for Afghan authorities is recent flooding in many regions, which the disaster agency said had killed 11, injured 50 and blocked stretches of highway.
The disaster comes as Afghanistan grapples with a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over, as US-led international forces withdrew following two decades of war.
In response to the Taliban takeover, many nations imposed sanctions on Afghanistan's banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.
Humanitarian aid has continued, however, with international agencies, such as the UN, operating.
The UN’s office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Afghanistan had asked humanitarian agencies to help with rescue efforts, and teams were being dispatched to the quake-hit area.
A spokesperson of Afghanistan's foreign ministry said it would welcome international help. Neighbouring Pakistan said it was working to extend assistance.
Authorities had launched a rescue operation and helicopters were being used to reach the injured and take in medical supplies and food, he added.
In 2015, an earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan.
Update: June 22 2022
This article has been updated with new information
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