A strong earthquake in Afghanistan has left at least 920 people dead, with officials expecting the death toll to rise as more information emerges. The 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit neighbouring parts of Pakistan as well and claimed one life.
The earthquake struck about 44 km from the Afghani city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGC) said. In the province of Khost, 25 were dead and 90 had been taken to hospital.
Interior Minister Salahuddin Ayubi said that most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern province of Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, adding that helicopters were being used to reach the injured and distribute medical supplies and food as part of the rescue effort.
In a communication with journalists, the head of the Information and Culture Department in Paktika, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, said that the number was rising, and could be closer to 1000. “People are digging grave after grave,” he said.
Due to many sanctions, the Taliban, who took over the country in August, have been cut off from international assistance, which will make rescue operations difficult. The earthquake is the deadliest one to hit the country since 2002.
Pakistan has pledged to assist Afghanistan during this crisis. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan will provide all possible assistance to the people of Afghanistan, instructing relevant authorities to assist the affected people in Afghanistan.
The Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan also said that the Minister of Health and chief secretary have been instructed to send medical teams and relief supplies to the quake-hit province of Paktika in Afghanistan.
He added that the provincial government will provide all possible assistance despite limited resources.
Similarly, other political leadership, including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, President Arif Alvi and former prime minister Imran Khan have expressed sorrow and concern over the disaster.