Afghanistan Quake Kills 1,000, Digging Grave After Grave, Says Official

Afghanistan earthquake kills 1,000, 'Digging grave after grave', official says

Afghanistan is often hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush Mountains

Kabul:

A powerful earthquake struck a remote border area of ​​Afghanistan overnight, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said Wednesday.

The earthquake, measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale, hit hardest in the rugged east, where people are already living difficult lives in a country experiencing a humanitarian disaster exacerbated by the Taliban takeover in August.

“People are digging grave after grave,” said Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in hard-hit Paktika, adding that at least 1,000 people had died in that province alone.

“It is also raining and all the houses have been destroyed. People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told reporters.

The death toll rose steadily throughout the day as news of casualties came in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it was likely to rise further.

Earlier, a Paktika tribal leader said survivors and rescuers were making efforts to help those affected.

“Local markets have been closed and all people have rushed to the affected areas,” Yaqub Manzor told AFP by phone.

Photos and video clips on social media showed dozens of badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas.

Some images show local residents loading victims into a military helicopter.

Offers of help

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams had been stretched to deal with the natural disasters that often hit the country.

But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters left since the hardline Islamists returned to power, any immediate response to the latest catastrophe is further limited.

“The government is working within its means,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official.

“We hope that the International Community and aid organizations will also help our people in this dire situation.”

The United Nations and the European Union were quick to provide assistance.

“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed in a number of affected areas,” tweeted the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan.

Tomas Niklasson, EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate the affected people and communities and provide EU emergency assistance.”

Afghanistan is often hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush Mountains, which lie near the intersection of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

In January, dozens of people were killed and injured when two earthquakes hit rural areas in western Badghis province, damaging hundreds of buildings.

In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale ripped the two countries apart, with the majority of the dead in Pakistan.

From Vatican City, Pope Francis has prayed for the victims of the latest earthquake.

“I express my close relationship with the injured and those affected,” the 85-year-old pope said at the end of his weekly audience.

Aid agencies and the United Nations say Afghanistan will need billions of dollars this year to deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

In particular, aid agencies have emphasized the need for greater disaster preparedness in Afghanistan, which remains highly susceptible to recurring earthquakes, floods and landslides.

The quake was felt as far as Lahore in Pakistan, 480 kilometers (300 miles) from the epicenter, according to comments on the websites of the USGS and the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC).

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)

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