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Taliban seek help after Deadliest Afghanistan quake in decades kills over 1,000 people

Houses were reduced to rubble and bodies swathed in blankets lay on the ground after the magnitude 6.1 earthquake in Afghanistan.

The death toll from an earthquake in Afghanistan on Wednesday hit 1,000, disaster management officials said, with in excess of 600 harmed and the cost expected to develop as information trickles in from remote mountain villages. A foreign ministry spokesman said the Taliban would welcome international help.

Houses were decreased to rubble and bodies wrapped in blankets lay on the ground after the magnitude 6.1 earthquake, photos on Afghan media showed.

An unknown number of people stayed stuck under rubble and in outlying areas, health and aid workers said, and rescue operations were complicated by difficult conditions including heavy rains, landslides and many villages being nestled in inaccessible hillside areas.

“Many people are as yet covered under the soil. The rescue teams of the Islamic Emirate have shown up and with the help of local people are trying to take out the dead and injured,” a health worker at a hospital in the hard-hit Paktika province said, asking for anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Mounting a rescue operation will prove a major test for the hard-line Islamist Taliban authorities, who took over the country last August after two decades of war and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions. The Taliban-led ministry of defence is leading rescue efforts.

Loretta Hieber Girardet from the United Nations’ disaster risk decrease office expressed efforts to give relief and save people caught under rubble would face huge challenges due to the terrain and weather.

“The roads are poor even at the best of times so having a humanitarian operation put in place is going to be immediately challenged by the lack of easy access to the area,” she said, adding that rain combined with the quake created a further risk of landslides for humanitarian workers.

The UN humanitarian office said it was sending medical health teams and providing medical supplies.

Inside ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi said the death toll was probably going to rise “as a portion of the villages are in far off regions in the mountains and it will require an investment to gather details.”


Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest in Afghanistan starting around 2002. It struck around 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Shaking was felt by around 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said on Twitter, yet there were no immediate reports of harm or losses in Pakistan.

The EMSC put the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1, though the USGC said it was 5.9.

Disaster specialists and humanitarian workers said the impoverished hilly areas struck by the quake were especially vulnerable, with landslides and poorly built houses adding to widespread destruction.

“We were all sleeping at home… and the room fell over us,” said Gul Faraz as he got treatment for wounds with his better half and kids at a hospital in Paktika. Some relatives had been killed, he said.

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

Most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern territory of Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 harmed, Ayubi said. In the region of Khost, 25 were dead and 90 had been taken to hospital.

Adding to the challenge for Afghan authorities is ongoing flooding in numerous areas, which has blocked stretches of highway.

Afghanistan is likewise grappling with a serious financial crisis. Because of the Taliban takeover last year, numerous nations forced sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars in development aid.

Humanitarian aid has proceeded, however, from international agencies such as the United Nations.

US President Joe Biden coordinated the US Agency for International Development and other federal government partner’s to assess US reaction choices, the White House said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations was completely mobilized, evaluating the necessities and offering initial support.

“We count on the international community to help support the hundreds of families hit 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 into the Eurasian plate.

In 2015, a earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast, killing a few hundred people in Afghanistan and close by northern Pakistan.

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