Afghan earthquake kills at least 920, toll expected to rise

By Orowo Victoria Ojieh with agency report

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 death toll would likely rise.

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 Trumpet Gathered

“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.

Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban, offered his condolences in a statement.

The magnitude 6 quake struck around 44 kilometres (27 miles) from the city of Khost, located near the border with Pakistan.

Dozens of people are believed to be still trapped under the rubble.

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 said.

Immediately after the earthquake was reported, the government of Pakistan extended condolences and sympathies over the loss of lives and damage to property in the neighbouring country.

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The United Nations and European Union were quick to offer help.

“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to several affected areas,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted.

Tomas Niklasson, the 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.”

From the Vatican City, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims and their families.

“I express my closeness with the injured and those who were affected,” the 85-year-old pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience.

“And I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and their families,” the head of the global Catholic Church said.

Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest since 2002.

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