Strong earthquake kills at least 921 in Afghanistan

by Abbas Adil

An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 killed at least 920 people in Afghanistan early on Wednesday, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.

Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground.

Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said an interior ministry official, Salahuddin Ayubi.

“The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to collect details.”

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

However, another official said that the death toll had reached at least 1,000.

“The number is increasing. People are digging grave after grave,” Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in Paktika, said in a message to journalists.Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest since 2002. According to US Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred at 1:54am (PST), about 44 km (27 miles) from the city of Khost, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, at a depth of 51 km. The tremors were felt over some 500km by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.In Pakistan, tremors were felt in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, Kohat, Mohmand, Swat, Buner and other parts of Punjab and KP.

People left their homes in panic for safer places. “It was strong,” said a resident of Peshawar.

A report by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Authority said a man, resident of Lakki Marwat was killed in the earthquake after the roof of his room collapsed.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over August, as US-led international forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.

In response to the Taliban takeover, many governments have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.

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