At least 1,000 dead in Afghanistan earthquake

STORY: Emergency crews were rushing to bring relief in Afghanistan after an earthquake on Wednesday left at least 1,000 people dead and, and hundreds more injured…

Many of the victims were children… some were treated for broken bones and head injuries...

A man who gave only the name Habibullah was receiving care at a local hospital.

“The earthquake hit around 2 in the morning. It was too dangerous. We left home immediately. A lot of people were injured.”

The United States Geological Survey said the 5.9 magnitude quake struck about 27 miles from the southeastern city of Khost, in the eastern province of Paktika, near the border with Pakistan.

It is likely to become the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan in twenty years…

Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.

Loretta Hieber Girardet from the United Nations' disaster risk reduction office said efforts to provide relief and save people trapped under rubble would face huge challenges due to the terrain, poor infrastructure and recent flooding.

“This area – Paktika, very remote. The road access is very poor even in the best of times… (flash) The problem will be obviously, whether or not there would be the type of heavy machinery you would need to be able to get to people that are trapped under rubble in a quick enough time period to save lives.”

Afghanistan is also grappling with a severe economic crisis. In response to the Taliban takeover last year, many countries imposed sanctions on Afghanistan's banking sector and cut billions of dollars in development aid.

Jens Laerke is from the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affars:

“It's in a country that's already on the brink, we know that. Food security situation is where we're talking about, we're close to a famine-like situation. So, people are really already hanging on by a thread, so when this disaster comes on top, the de facto authorities in Afghanistan did reach out and asked the UN for help.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has directed the U.S. Agency for International Development and other partners to assess response options.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations was fully mobilized and providing initial support.

But mounting a rescue operation could prove a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country in August after more than 20 years out of power.

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