Authorities said that at least 1000 people were killed in an earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday morning.
Although the information on the magnitude 6 earthquake that hit Paktika province was scarce, it came as the international community had largely left Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last year and the chaotic withdrawal by the U.S. from the longest conflict in its history.
This will likely complicate any relief efforts in this country of 38 million.
According to the state-run Bakhtar news agency, rescuers were arriving via helicopter. Abdul Wahid Rayan (director-general of the news agency) tweeted that 90 houses had been destroyed in Paktika and that dozens of people were trapped beneath the rubble.
Footage taken from Paktika, near the Pakistan border, showed the victims being transported into helicopters and flown to the Pakistani border. Pictures online showed residents digging through rubble and picking through bricks from the wrecked stone houses.
Bakhtar shared footage of a resident receiving IV fluids using a plastic chair in the rubble of his house while others were lying on gurneys.
“A severe earthquake struck four districts in Paktika province, killing or injuring hundreds and destroying dozens upon houses,” Bilal Karimi (a deputy spokesperson for the Taliban government) wrote separately on Twitter. We urge all aid agencies and humanitarian organizations to immediately send teams to the affected area to stop further disasters.”
Rayan stated that authorities in neighbouring Khost believe there are many more victims and deaths from the earthquake.
The earthquake was rated at magnitude 6.1 by Pakistan’s Meteorological Department. The earthquake was felt in Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan) and other parts of the eastern Punjab province. Reports of damage to homes in remote areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border were reported by Taimoor Khan, a spokesperson for disaster management in the region.
In a statement, Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, expressed condolences for the earthquake and said that his country would help the Afghan people.
According to the European seismological organization, EMSC (European Seismological Agency), the earthquake’s tremors could be felt for more than 500 km (311 miles) by 119 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
The mountainous region of South Asia between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indian tectonic plates to the north has been vulnerable to earthquakes for a long time. Poorly constructed homes, hospitals, and other buildings are at risk of being destroyed by earthquakes. Landslides continue to be a common occurrence in the mountains of Afghanistan.
A major earthquake in Afghanistan’s northeast caused more than 200 deaths. It also affected northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2002, about 1,000 people were killed in northern Afghanistan by a similar 6.1 earthquake. In 1998, at least 4,500 people were killed by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan’s remote northeast.