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Earthquake in Afghanistan kills at least 920 people, official says; at least 600 injured

KABUL, Afghanistan — A powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing at least 920 people and injuring 600 others in the deadliest tremor in two decades, authorities said. Officials warned that the already dismal toll was likely to increase.

Information about the 6.1-magnitude quake near the Pakistan border remained scarce, but tremors of this magnitude are expected to cause severe damage in the remote area, where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common.

The rescue effort is likely to be complicated as many international aid organizations left Afghanistan after the country was taken over by the Taliban last year and the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from the longest war in its history. Rescue workers rushed to the scene of the accident by helicopter.

The neighboring Pakistan Meteorological Office said the quake’s epicenter was in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost. Buildings were also damaged in Khost province. The US Geological Survey, which put the magnitude slightly lower at 5.9, put the depth at just 10 kilometers (6 miles) — another factor that could increase the damage.

Footage from Paktika showed people being carried into helicopters to be flown out of the area. Others were treated on the spot. One resident could be seen receiving IV fluids while seated in a plastic chair in front of the rubble of his home, and more lay sprawled on stretchers. Some images showed residents digging through mud brick and other debris from destroyed stone homes.

The death toll given by Afghan emergency services official Sharafuddin Muslim made it the deadliest quake since 2002, when a magnitude 6.1 tremor in northern Afghanistan killed about 1,000 people just after the US-led invasion invaded the Taliban government following the 9/11 attacks September 2001.

Previously, the director general of the state news agency Bakhtar, Abdul Wahid Rayan, wrote on Twitter that 90 houses were destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people were trapped under the rubble.

“We urge all aid organizations to immediately send teams to the region to prevent further disasters,” Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, wrote on Twitter.

In Kabul, Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called an emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace to coordinate relief efforts for the victims in Paktika and Khost.

“Response is underway,” UN resident coordinator in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov wrote on Twitter.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif issued a statement expressing condolences over the earthquake and saying his nation will help the Afghan people. In the Vatican, Pope Francis prayed for all the dead and injured and for the “suffering of the dear Afghan people”.

At least 25 people were killed and more than 95 others injured in the earthquake in just one district of Khost province, local officials said.

Some remote areas of Pakistan saw reports of damage to homes near the Afghan border, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether this was due to rain or the earthquake, said Taimoor Khan, a spokesman for disaster management in the region.

The European Seismological Agency EMSC said the earthquake’s shocks were felt over 500 kilometers (310 miles) by 119 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Mountainous Afghanistan and the greater region of South Asia along the Hindu Kush Mountains have long been prone to devastating earthquakes.

In 2015, a powerful earthquake in the north-east of the country killed over 200 people in Afghanistan and neighboring northern Pakistan. In 1998, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake and subsequent shaking killed at least 4,500 people in remote north-eastern Afghanistan.

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Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, and Jon Gambrell and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/afghanistan-earthquake-today-now-kabul/11986785/ Earthquake in Afghanistan kills at least 920 people, official says; at least 600 injured

Dais Johnston

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