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Afghanistan earthquake kills at least 1,000 people trapped under rubble

Afghanistan earthquake kills at least 1,000 people trapped under rubble

KABUL (Reuters) – The death toll from Wednesday’s earthquake in Afghanistan has reached 1,000, with more than 600 injured, and the death toll is expected to rise as information flows from remote mountain villages, disaster management officials said.

Houses were reduced to rubble and the bodies were later dumped on the ground 6.1 magnitude earthquakePictures showed in the Afghan media.

The pictures showed that an unknown number of people remained trapped under the rubble and in remote areas. Health and relief workers said rescue operations were complicated by difficult conditions including rain, landslides, and many villages located in inaccessible hilly areas.

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Asking a health worker at a major hospital in Paktika said: “Many people are still buried underground. Rescue teams from the Islamic Emirate have arrived and with the help of local residents are trying to get the dead and injured out.” He remains anonymous as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

A rescue operation would prove to be a major test for the authorities of the hardline Islamist Taliban, who seized the country last August after two decades of war and was cut off from much international aid due to sanctions. The Taliban-led Defense Ministry is leading the rescue effort.

The United Nations said it is deploying medical health teams and providing medical supplies, but it does not have search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan.

Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, an Interior Ministry official, said the death toll was likely to rise “because some villages are located in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to gather the details.”

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Strongest earthquake in 20 years

The US Geological Survey said Wednesday’s earthquake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 2002. It struck about 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan.

Some 119 million people felt the shaking in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in Pakistan, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said on Twitter.

EMSC put the earthquake’s strength at 6.1, although the USGC said it was 5.9.

Disaster experts and humanitarian workers said impoverished hilly areas hit by the quake were particularly vulnerable, with landslides and poorly constructed homes causing widespread destruction.

“We were all sleeping in the house…and the room fell on top of us,” said Jules Faraz, while receiving treatment for injuries with his wife and children at a hospital in eastern Paktika province. He said some family members were killed.

“All the houses in our area were destroyed, not one, but the whole area,” he added.

Al-Ayoubi said most of the confirmed deaths were in Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. In Khost province, 25 died and 90 were hospitalized.

Haibatullah Akhundzadeh, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban movement, offered his condolences in a statement.

The challenge facing the Afghan authorities has been compounded by recent flooding in several districts, which has blocked swathes of highways.

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Afghanistan is also suffering from a severe economic crisis. In response to the Taliban’s seizure of power last year, several countries have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars in development aid.

However, humanitarian aid from international agencies such as the United Nations has continued

A foreign ministry spokesman said the Taliban welcomed international assistance. Several countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Iran, said they were sending humanitarian aid including food and medicine.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN was fully mobilized to assess needs and provide initial support.

“We are counting on the international community to help support hundreds of families struck by the latest disaster. It is time for solidarity,” he said in a statement.

Large parts of southern Asia are seismically active because the tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate. Read more

In 2015, an earthquake struck remote northeastern Afghanistan, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and neighboring northern Pakistan.

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(Reporting by Muhammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul and Gibran Ahmad in Peshawar). Additional reporting by the Kabul Newsroom and Chobham Kalia in Bengaluru, Alasdair Pal in Delhi and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Written by Charlotte Greenfield and Gibran Bashimam; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Rosalba O’Brien

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.