KABUL, Afghanistan – At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 1,500 others injured after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit a remote and mountainous region in southeastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan, the official Bakhtar news agency reported.
The quake struck about 28 miles southwest of the city of Khost, a provincial capital in the southeast of the country, the United States Geological Survey said, and was about six miles deep. Raees Hozaifa, director of information and culture in the eastern province of Paktika, said the earthquake was felt in several provinces.
Some of the quake-affected areas are in a remote country near the Pakistani border that has been the scene of heavy fighting before and after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and telecommunications are poor or non-existent, making it difficult to obtain a full casualty toll. An aid official said he expected the death toll to be much higher.
Mohammad Almas, head of aid and appeals at Qamar, an Afghanistan charity active in the area, said he expected the death toll to be high because the area is far from hospitals and because the earthquake happened at night, when most people were sleeping inside.
As many as 17 members of one family were killed in one village when their house collapsed, he said; only one child survived. He said more than 25 villages were almost completely destroyed, including schools, mosques and homes.
In Sperah district of Khost province, northeast of Paktika province, the earthquake killed at least 40 people and injured 90 others, provincial director Shabir Ahmad Osmani said by phone. information and culture of Khost.
Rafiullah Rahel, head of the health department of Paktika province, said 381 people had died and 205 injured in that province.
It was not immediately clear whether the figures given by provincial officials were early estimates, or whether large numbers of casualties had been recorded elsewhere.
The Bakhtar News Agency posted video footage on Twitter of a helicopter landing in what he said was an earthquake-affected area. He said ambulances were transporting the injured to hospitals.
Sarhadi Khosti, 26, who lives in Sperah district, said he was woken up by the earthquake after 1 a.m. and a number of houses – especially those made of mud or wood – had been completely destroyed. He said helicopters had transported some of the injured to hospitals in Kabul and neighboring provinces.
“At the moment we are still busy removing the dead or injured from under the rubble,” he said.
Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter that the organization was assessing the situation following the earthquake. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, said on Twitter that the agency would “continue to support those in need across the country”.
The quake struck about 300 miles north-northeast of the site of a deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Pakistan in 2008, the USGS said. More … than 200 people were reportedly killed at the time.
The earthquake was felt in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and in neighboring northern Pakistan, according to a map that the European Mediterranean Seismological Center has posted on its website. The USGS said a second earthquake, measuring 4.5, struck about 30 miles southwest of Khost about an hour later.
Safiullah Padshah reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Mike Ives from Seoul. Isabella Kwai and Emma Bubola contributed reporting from London and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan.
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