The death toll from an earthquake in Afghanistan on Wednesday hit 1,000, civil protection officials said, with more than 600 injured, and the number is expected to rise as information pours in from remote mountain villages.
Houses were reduced to rubble and bodies wrapped in blankets lay on the ground, photographs in Afghan media showed.
Helicopters were used in the rescue effort to reach the injured, and medical supplies and food to fly in, Interior Ministry official Salahuddin said Ayubi.
“The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take time to gather details,” he said.
Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest to hit Afghanistan since 2002. It struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, it said by the USGeological Survey (USGC).
Disaster management officials said at least 1,000 were dead and 600 injured. However, local officials estimate the number of injured to be higher.
“1,000 dead, 1,500 injured and this number may increase, many families have been lost. Injured were taken to Kabul and Gardez,” said Mohammad Amin Hozaifa , Paktika’s information and culture director, told Reuters.
Most of the confirmed deaths occurred in eastern Paktika province, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, Ayubi added. In Khost province, 25 died and 90 were hospitalized.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban, issued a statement expressing his condolences.
Mounting A rescue operation is taking place Proving to be a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country last August and are cut off from much international aid due to sanctions.
The quake was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, said the EMSC on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.
The EMSC put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.1, although the USGC said it was 5.9.< /p >
An additional challenge for the Afghan authorities is the recent flooding in many regions, which according to the disaster agency killed 11 people, injured 50 and blocked sections of highway.
The disaster occurs, w uring Afghanistan has faced a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took power when US-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war.
In response to the Taliban takeover, many nations imposed sanctions on the Afghan banking sector and cut billions of dollars in development aid.
Humanitarian aid continued, however, through international organizations such as the United Nations.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA ) said Afghanistan has asked humanitarian organizations to help with the rescue effort and teams are being sent to the quake-hit area.
A State Department spokesman said the Taliban would welcome international aid. Neighboring Pakistan said it is working to expand aid.
Much of South Asia is seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian Plate is pushing north into the Eurasian Plate.
In 2015, an earthquake struck remote northeastern Afghanistan, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan.
In January, an earthquake struck western Afghanistan, killing more than 20 people.< /p>