A thousand people are feared dead after a devastating 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan, flattening villages and causing huge landslides.
Homes have been reduced to rubble after the tremors in the early hours, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground in the eastern Pakitka province.
Interior ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi said at least 950 have been killed and 600 are injured with the toll feared to keep rising.
He said: ‘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.’
Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food.
The international community has largely left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year, which will likely complicate any relief efforts for this country of 38million.
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.
Footage from Paktika province near the Pakistan border showed victims being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area.
Images widely circulating online from the province showed destroyed stone houses, with residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble.
Bakhtar posted footage of a resident receiving IV fluids from a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and others sprawled on gurneys.
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 quake struck about 27 miles from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the US Geological Survey, USGC, said.
‘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.
Most of the confirmed deaths were in Paktika, where 255 people had been killed and more than 200 injured, said interior ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi.
In Khost province, 25 people had been killed and 90 taken to hospital, he said.
‘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,’ he said.
‘A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,’ Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, separately wrote on Twitter. ‘We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.’
Neighbouring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department put the earthquake at a magnitude 6.1. Tremors were felt in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the eastern Punjab province.
The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake’s tremors were felt over 310 miles by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a statement offered his condolences over the earthquake, saying his nation will provide help to the Afghan people.
The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over August, as U.S.-led international forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.
In response to the Taliban takeover, many governments have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.
Humanitarian aid has continued and international agencies such as the United Nations operate in the country.
An Afghan foreign ministry spokesman said they would welcome help from any international organisation.
Large parts of south Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.
In 2015, an earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan.
A similar 6.1 earthquake in 2002 killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan.
And in 1998, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan’s remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.
Source: Daily Mail