In a bizarre occurrence, it has been reported that a powerful earthquake has struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight and killed at least 1000 people and injured hundreds more, officials said Wednesday, with the toll expected to rise as rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.
The unexpected 5.9 magnitude quake had struck hardest in the rugged terrain of the east, where some of the indigenes already live hardscrabble lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster which was made worse by the Taliban takeover in August.
The death toll has climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.
“So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured,” Sharafuddin Muslim, the deputy minister for disaster management, told a press conference in the capital, Kabul.
Earlier, a tribal leader from Paktika province — one of the hardest hit areas — said survivors and rescuers were scrambling to help those affected.
“The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas,” Yaqub Manzor told AFP by telephone.
Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed scores of badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas.
Some footage showed local residents loading victims into a military helicopter.
Even before the Taliban take over Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were already stretched thin to deal with the natural disasters that frequently struck the country due to the incessant wars and conflicts. But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters, an immediate response is often limited.
“The government is working within its capabilities,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official.
“We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”
The United Nations and European Union were quick to offer help.
“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted.
Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”