An earthquake of 6.1-magnitude has killed 1,000 persons in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Officials said that 1,500 more have been injured and that the toll could rise.
“The number is increasing,” Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in Paktika, told journalists, AFP reported. “People are digging grave after grave.”
Salahuddin Ayubi, an official from the Taliban administration’s interior ministry, said that 255 people were killed and over 200 were injured in the province of Paktika, Reuters reported. Twenty-five deaths were reported in the Nangarhar province.
“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,” Ayubi said, according to Reuters. “Authorities have launched a rescue operation and helicopters are being used to reach those injured and take medical supplies and food.”
Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesperson for the Taliban government, said that the earthquake destroyed several houses in the region, AP reported.
“We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe,” he said.
An emergency meeting was also convened by Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund in Kabul to coordinate the relief effort in Paktika and Khost.
The United States Geological Survey said that the quake struck about 44 kilometres from the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan at a depth of 51 km.
Tremors were also felt in neighbouring Pakistan’s Punjab province and parts of India, according to Reuters. However, no reports of damage or deaths have been reported from the countries.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said he is “deeply grieved” as the death count rose steadily.
“People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brethren,” Sharif said. “Relevant authorities working to support Afghanistan in this time of need.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet expressed anguish at the loss of lives and the devastation. “India stands by the people of Afghanistan in their difficult times and is ready to provide all possible disaster relief material at the earliest,’’ he added.
It could be difficult to carry out the rescue operations since several international aid agencies have left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year.
The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the Taliban authorities have urged the global body and its partners to support the disaster management officials in the country.