KABUL, AFRICAN REPUBLIC — Authorities say an earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday morning, killing at least 255 people.
The magnitude 6 earthquake that struck Paktika province left little information available, but it comes as the international world has mostly abandoned Afghanistan in the aftermath of the quake. The Taliban took control of the nation last year, after the chaotic departure of the US forces from the country’s longest conflict.
This is expected to hinder any aid attempt for this 38-million-person nation.
The death toll was announced by the state-run Bakhtar news agency, which said rescuers were approaching by helicopter. According to the news agency’s director general, Abdul Wahid Rayan, 90 homes have been damaged in Paktika, and scores of people are feared to be trapped under the wreckage.
Footage from Paktika region, near Pakistan’s border, shows casualties being transferred to helicopters and evacuated out of the area. Images from the region were extensively posted online, showing stone homes damaged and inhabitants picking up clay bricks and other debris.
Bakhtar shared photos of a person getting IV fluids from a plastic chair outside the ruins of his house, as well as others on stretchers.
“A big earthquake hit four districts in Paktika province, killing and wounding hundreds of our countrymen and damaging dozens of homes,” Bilal Karimi, the Taliban government’s deputy spokesperson, posted separately on Twitter. “We encourage all aid organisations to deploy teams to the region as soon as possible to avert additional disaster.”
The quake had a magnitude of 6.1, according to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department. Tremors were reported in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and across Punjab’s eastern region.
According to the European Seismological Center, shocks from the earthquake were felt across 310 miles by 119 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
Mountainous Afghanistan and the greater South Asian area, where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, have long been prone to deadly earthquakes.
A powerful earthquake that hit the country’s northeast in 2015 killed more than 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan.