A powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said Wednesday, with the count expected to rise as desperate rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings, reported AFP.
The 5.9 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead hardscrabble lives in a country under a humanitarian disaster made worse 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 raining also, and all houses are destroyed. People are still trapped under the rubble.”
The death count 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.
Earlier, a tribal leader from Paktika said survivors and rescuers were scrambling to help those affected.
“The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas,” Yaqub Manzor told AFP by telephone.
Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently struck the country.
“The government is working within its capabilities,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official.
“We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”
The United Nations and European Union were quick to offer assistance. “Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted.
Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”