Official: Afghanistan earthquake kills at least 920 people

22 June 2022, 11:04

Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan
APTOPIX Afghanistan Earthquake. Picture: PA

Houses were destroyed in Paktika province, with the magnitude 6.1 tremor being felt as far away as Pakistan.

At least 920 people have died and around 600 others have been injured after an earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan, authorities said.

Officials warned the death toll will likely rise.

Information remains scarce on the magnitude 6.1 quake that damaged buildings in the Khost and Paktika provinces.

Rescue efforts are likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year and the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from the longest war in its history.

Afghans evacuate a person wounded in an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan
Afghans evacuate a person wounded in an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan (Bakhtar News Agency/AP)

Neighbouring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said the quake’s epicentre was in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, just near the border and some 31 miles south-west of the city of Khost.

Such earthquakes can cause severe damage, particularly in an area like this one where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common.

Footage from Paktika province showed people being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area.

Others were treated on the ground. One resident could be seen receiving IV fluids while sitting in a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and still more were sprawled on stretchers.

Other images showed residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble from destroyed stone houses.

Afghan emergency official Sharafuddin Muslim gave the death toll in a press conference on Wednesday.

Taliban fighters secure a government helicopter to evacuate injured people in Gayan district, Paktika province, Afghanistan
Taliban fighters secure a government helicopter to evacuate injured people in Gayan district, Paktika province, Afghanistan (Bakhtar State News Agency/AP)

Earlier, the director-general of state-run Bakhtar news agency, Abdul Wahid Rayan, wrote on Twitter that 90 houses have been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people are believed trapped under the rubble.

Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, gave no specific death toll but wrote on Twitter that hundreds of people were killed and injured in the earthquake, which shook four districts in Paktika.

“We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe,” he wrote.

In just one district of the neighbouring Khost province, the earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured over 95 others, local officials said.

In Kabul, Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund convened an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to co-ordinate the relief effort for victims in Paktika and Khost.

The “response is on its way”, the UN resident co-ordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, wrote on Twitter.

Some remote areas of Pakistan saw reports of damage to homes near the Afghan border, but it was not immediately clear if that was due to rain or the earthquake, said Taimoor Khan, a disaster management spokesman in the area.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a statement offered his condolences over the earthquake, saying his nation will provide help to the Afghan people.

The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake’s tremors were felt over 310 miles away by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Mountainous Afghanistan and the larger region of South Asia along the Hindu Kush mountains has long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes.

In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the country’s northeast killed more than 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan.

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake in 2002 killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan.

And in 1998, another earthquake of the same strength and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan’s remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.

By Press Association

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