KABUL: A powerful earthquake of 6.1 magnitude struck Afghanistan on Wednesday, leaving more than 1,000 people killed, disaster management officials said, with nearly 1,600 injured as the toll expected to grow.
“More than 1000 people were killed and over 1500 others injured in Paktika province,” the Head of Information and Culture Department of the province told state-run Bakhtar News Agency.
He added that the death toll could rise as rescue operations still continue in the Gayan and Barmal districts of the province.
Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest since 2002. It struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the US Geological Survey (USGC) said.
The landlocked country’s eastern province of Paktika was the most affected, with reports of significant damage from the areas of Giyan, Nakai, Bermal and Zerak. In Khost province, the area of Seprai bore the brunt of the early morning tremors.
Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada expressed grief over the loss of life and directed all concerned officials and departments to take immediate steps to give relief to the affected families.
Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground. Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said an interior ministry official, Salahuddin Ayubi.
“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.”
Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said on Twitter.
“Strong and long jolts,” a resident of the Afghan capital, Kabul, posted on the website of EMSC.
“It was strong,” said a resident of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
The death toll climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.
Most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern province of Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, Ayubi added. In the province of Khost, 25 were dead and 90 had been taken to hospital.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban, offered his condolences in a statement.
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.
Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the EMSC said on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.
PAKISTAN OFFERS SUPPORT
Pakistan has offered support for the earthquake-hit neighbouring country with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, asking relevant authorities to support Afghanistan in time of need.
The prime minister in a message from his Twitter handle said that he was deeply grieved to learn about the earthquake in Afghanistan, resulting in loss of innocent lives. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brethren,” he said.
In addition, former minister Imran Khan directed his KP government to facilitate medical facilities for the affected people in the neighbouring country.
“My condolences and prayers go to the government and people of Afghanistan for the loss of lives suffered in the earthquake,” he said and added that he had asked the KP government to especially facilitate the provision of all medical assistance.
Following Imran Khan’s directives, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has directed the chief secretary and health minister to send medical teams and aid to the quake-hit areas of the country.
“We stand by the people of Afghanistan in testing times and will offer support and resources to deal with the situation,” he said.
According to a Reuters report, an earthquake of magnitude 6.1 killed 950 people in Afghanistan early on Wednesday, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.
Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground.
Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said an interior ministry official, Salahuddin Ayubi.
Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest since 2002. It struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGC) said.