Earthquake in Afghanistan leaves at least 1,000 dead and more trapped in rubble

KABUL, June 22 (Reuters) – The death toll from an earthquake in Afghanistan on Wednesday reached 1,000, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the death toll expected to rise as information comes in. remote mountain villages.

Houses were reduced to rubble and bodies wrapped in blankets lay on the ground after the magnitude 6.1 earthquakephotos were shown in Afghan media.

An unknown number of people remained trapped under the rubble and in outlying areas, photos showed. Health and humanitarian workers said rescue operations were complicated by difficult conditions, including rain, landslides and many villages located on inaccessible hillside areas.

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“Many people are still buried under the ground. The Islamic Emirate’s rescue teams have arrived and with the help of the local population they are trying to pull out the dead and wounded,” said a health worker at one of the main hospitals in the city. Paktika, asking for help. anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Mounting a rescue operation will be a major test for the hardline Taliban Islamist authorities, who took over the country last August after two decades of war and have been deprived of much international aid due to sanctions. The Taliban-led Ministry of Defense is leading the rescue efforts.

The United Nations said it was deploying medical health teams and providing medical supplies but had no search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan.

Interior Ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi said the death toll was likely to rise “as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to gather details.”

THE DEADLIEST EARTHQUAKE IN 20 YEARS

Wednesday’s earthquake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 2002. It struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. for its acronym in English).

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

The EMSC put the magnitude of the quake at 6.1, although the USGC said it was 5.9.

Disaster experts and aid workers said impoverished mountainous areas hit by the quake were especially vulnerable, with landslides and poorly built houses adding to the widespread destruction.

“We were all sleeping at home… and the room fell on us,” Gul Faraz said as he received treatment for injuries with his wife and children at a hospital in the eastern province of Paktika. Some family members had been killed, he said.

“All the houses in our area were destroyed, not one, but the whole region has been destroyed.”

Most of the confirmed deaths were in Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, Ayubi said. In Khost province, 25 died and 90 were taken to hospital.

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

Adding to the challenge for Afghan authorities are recent floods in many regions, which have blocked stretches of road.

Afghanistan is also dealing with a severe economic crisis. In response to the Taliban’s takeover last year, many countries have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars in development aid.

Humanitarian aid has continued, however, from international organizations such as the UN

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Taliban would welcome international help. 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, assessing needs and providing initial support.

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

Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north toward the Eurasian plate. read more

In 2015, an earthquake rocked remote northeast Afghanistan, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and near-north Pakistan.

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Reporting from Mohammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Additional reporting from the Kabul newsroom, Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, Alasdair Pal in Delhi, and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Written by Charlotte Greenfield and Gibran Peshimam; Edited by Lisa Shumaker and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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