Kabul, Afghanistan — A powerful earthquake that struck rural mountainous areas of eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday killed 1,000 people and injured another 1,500 in one of the deadliest earthquakes of decades. The state news agency reported that it did. Authorities have already warned that severe casualties may still increase.
There was still a lack of information about the magnitude 6.1 earthquake that damaged buildings in Khost and Paktika. Relief efforts are likely to be complicated as many international aid agencies have left Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year and the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from the longest-ever war.
According to the neighboring Pakistan Meteorological Bureau, the epicenter of the quake is in the province of Paktika in Afghanistan, very close to the border and about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of the host city. Such tremors can cause serious damage, especially in areas where landslides are common due to poor construction of homes and other buildings.
Images from Paktika showed that people being carried by helicopters were airlifted from the area. Others were treated on the ground. One resident could be seen receiving an IV drip while sitting in a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home, and more were spread to Gurney. Other images show residents picking up clay bricks and other rubble from a destroyed stone house.
Afghan emergency official Sharafuddin Muslim died at a press conference Wednesday. Earlier, Abdurrahman Wahid Rayan, secretary of the state-owned Bakhtar News Agency, wrote on Twitter that it is believed that 90 homes were destroyed and dozens were trapped under rubble in Paktika. ..
The Taliban’s deputy spokesman, Bilal Karimi, did not reveal a specific number of deaths, but wrote on Twitter that hundreds were killed and injured in the earthquakes that struck four districts of Paktika.
“We urge all agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe,” he writes.
At least 25 people were killed and more than 95 were injured in the quake in just one district of neighboring Khost, according to local officials.
In Kabul, Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund convened an emergency meeting at the presidential residence to coordinate relief efforts for the victims of Paktika and the host.
“The response is on the way,” Afghanistan’s UN resident coordinator, Ramiz Arakbarov, said on Twitter.
In some remote areas of Pakistan, there were reports of damage to houses near the Afghan border, but it was not immediately clear whether it was due to rain or an earthquake.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a statement that his country would provide assistance to the people of Afghanistan and expressed his condolences for the quake.
According to the European seismological agency EMSC, the quake shook more than 500 km (310 miles) in 119 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
The larger parts of South Asia along the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush Mountains have long been vulnerable to catastrophic earthquakes.
In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the northeastern part of the country killed more than 200 people in northern Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck in 2002, killing about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan. And in 1998, another earthquake of the same intensity and subsequent tremors killed at least 4,500 people in the remote northeastern part of Afghanistan.
By Fazel Rahman Faizi