Afghanistan earthquake kills at least 1,000 people, but death toll is expected to rise

KABUL (Reuters) – The death toll from Wednesday’s earthquake in Afghanistan has reached 1,000, with more than 600 injured, and the death toll is expected to rise as information flows from remote mountain villages, disaster management officials said.

Pictures broadcast by Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble and bodies lying on the ground

Salah El-Din Al-Ayoubi, an Interior Ministry official, said helicopters were deployed in the rescue efforts to reach the injured and transport medical supplies and food.

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“The death toll is likely to rise because some of the villages are located in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to gather the details,” he said.

The US Geological Survey said Wednesday’s earthquake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 2002. It struck 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan.

Disaster management officials said at least 1,000 were killed and 600 injured. However, local officials said the number of injured is higher.

“A thousand dead and 1,500 wounded, and this number may rise and many families are missing. The injured were transported to Kabul and Gardez,” Muhammad Amin Hudhaifa, director of media and culture in Paktika, told Reuters.

Al-Ayoubi added that most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern province of Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. In Khost province, 25 were killed and 90 others were taken to hospital.

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Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban movement, offered his condolences in a statement.

A rescue operation would be a major test for the Taliban, which seized the country last August and was cut off from much international aid due to sanctions.

The department said on Twitter that about 119 million people felt the shaking in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in Pakistan.

EMSC put the earthquake’s strength at 6.1, although the USGC said it was 5.9.

Adding to the challenge for Afghan authorities are recent floods in several districts, which the disaster management agency said have killed 11 people, injured 50 and closed swathes of highways.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been grappling with a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over as US-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war.

In response to the Taliban’s seizure of power, several countries imposed sanctions on the banking sector in Afghanistan and cut billions of dollars in development aid.

However, humanitarian aid continued with the work of international agencies, such as the United Nations.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Afghanistan had asked humanitarian agencies to assist in the rescue efforts, and teams had been dispatched to the quake-hit area.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the Taliban welcomed international assistance. Neighboring Pakistan said it was working to provide assistance.

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Large parts of southern Asia are seismically active because the tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate. Read more

In 2015, an earthquake struck remote northeastern Afghanistan, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and neighboring northern Pakistan.

In January, an earthquake struck western Afghanistan, killing more than 20 people.

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Additional reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, Muhammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul and Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar; Reporting by Kabul Newsroom, Alasdair Pal in Delhi; Written by Charlotte Greenfield and Gibran Bashimam; Editing by Robert Percell, Clarence Fernandez and Angus McSwan.

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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