At least 920 people have been killed and 600 injured in a magnitude 6.1 earthquake in remote mountain villages in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika and Khost provinces.
Ariana News reported that Sharafuddin Muslim, the deputy state minister for disaster management, said Barmal district of Paktika was the most affected region.
However, officials said the toll is expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.
Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said another official.
The quake struck about 44 km from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the US Geological Survey (USGC) said.
Hibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, offered his condolences in a statement.
“It is with great sadness that we learn that last night there was a strong earthquake in Gyan, Naka, Barmal, Ziruk districts of Paktika and Spera district of Khost province and so far hundreds of houses have been reportedly destroyed and unfortunately up to 900 civilians were martyred and more than 600 were injured. It is also possible that the death toll could rise further. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan extends its deepest condolences to the families and relatives of all the victims of this tragic event.
“To the Ministry of Disaster Management of the Islamic Emirate, along with all other officials, governors and ordinary Afghans are instructed to rush to the scene as soon as possible, evacuate the martyrs, transport and treat the wounded and take the necessary steps to provide emergency assistance to the displaced.
“We also call on the international community, charity and all humanitarian organisations to help the Afghan people in this great tragedy and to spare no effort to help the bereaved as much as possible. We ask Allah to save our poor people from trials and tribulations.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said search and rescue operations are ongoing and are being led by the IEA authorities.
“The UN and humanitarian partners have been requested to support the de facto disaster management authority in assessing and responding to immediate needs,” UNOCHA tweeted.
Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas.