At least 920 killed in Afghanistan earthquake as Taliban appeal for international help

·3-min read
An earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday - Ariana News
An earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday - Ariana News

Nearly 1,000 have been killed in a heavy earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan with the death toll likely to rise as information trickles out of the region's remote villages.

A disaster official said early reports put the death toll at 920 when a tremor of magnitude 6.1 hit the country already suffering from an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Collapsing houses and landslides claimed casualties in the provinces of Paktika and Khost, along the border with Pakistan.

"So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured," Sharafuddin Muslim, deputy minister for disaster management, told a press conference.

The quake struck about 27 miles from the city of Khost, according to the US Geological Survey (USGC) and was the deadliest to strike the country in more than two decades.

Damage from the earthquake in the Paktia region of Afghanistan
Damage from the earthquake in the Paktia region of Afghanistan
Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan - Bakhtar News Agency via AP
Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan - Bakhtar News Agency via AP

Survivors told the Telegraph that whole villages had been destroyed and large numbers of people trapped under rubble.

As the scale of the devastation became clear, the Taliban called on United Nations agencies and aid charities working in the country for help.

Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble and bodies covered in blankets on the ground.

Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, said: "We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe."

Most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern Afghan province of 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.

Authorities had launched a rescue operation and helicopters were being used to reach the injured and take in medical supplies and food, he added.

Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, according to the EMSC, the European seismological organisation.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban swept to power last August after defeating the UK and UK-backed government of Ashraf Ghani.

Footage from Paktika province near the Pakistan border showed victims being carried into helicopters - @AyazSdyq1
Footage from Paktika province near the Pakistan border showed victims being carried into helicopters - @AyazSdyq1
Images widely circulating online from the province showed destroyed stone houses - AFGHAN GOVERNMENT NEWS AGENCY
Images widely circulating online from the province showed destroyed stone houses - AFGHAN GOVERNMENT NEWS AGENCY

The country was already one of the poorest in the world and since the Taliban victory, it has gone into economic meltdown after aid to its government stopped overnight and sanctions paralysed commerce.

Humanitarian agencies remained in the country after foreign troops left and in recent months have been trying to stave off starvation for millions of Afghans.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan, said Spera district in Khost, and Barmala, Ziruk, Naka and Gayan districts in Paktika were the worst hit.

UN and aid agencies "have been requested to support the de facto disaster management authority in assessing and responding to immediate needs" the office said.

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