A powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing at least 920 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said Wednesday, with the toll expected to rise as rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.
The 5.9 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged terrain of the east, where people already live hardscrabble lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster 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.
Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently struck the country.
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.