DISASTER – More than a thousand people were killed and hundreds injured in a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck southeastern Afghanistan overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to Afghan authorities, who fear a high balance sheet.
“The death toll has reached 1,000 dead and this figure is increasing. People are digging grave after grave,” Paktika Provincial Information and Culture Department Chief Mohammad Amin Huzaifa said in a message to the press. According to the government news agency, there would also be 1,500 injured.
“Many houses have been damaged and people are trapped inside,” deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi told AFP. “We call on aid agencies to provide immediate relief to earthquake victims to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” he previously tweeted.
The earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.9, occurred at a depth of 10 km around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, very close to the border with Pakistan, according to the American Seismological Institute (USGS).
A second quake of magnitude 4.5 hit almost the same place at the same time, according to the USGS.
According to Yaqub Manzor, a tribal leader from Paktika, many of the injured came from Giyan district in the province and were taken to hospital by ambulances and also helicopters.
“Local markets are closed and people have rushed (to help) to the affected areas,” he told AFP by telephone.
Frequent earthquakes in Afghanistan
Photos posted on social media showed collapsed houses in the streets of a village. Videos also showed residents of the affected areas loading injured people into a helicopter.
The earthquake was felt in several provinces of the region, and also in the capital Kabul, located about 200 km north of the epicenter of the earthquake.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range which lies at the junction between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
These disasters can be particularly devastating due to the weak resilience of rural Afghan homes.
In October 2015, a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the Hindu Kush range, straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing more than 380 people in these two countries.
Among the Afghan victims were 12 young girls, trampled in a panic as they tried to get out of their tottering school.
Since coming to power in Kabul last August, Afghanistan has been plunged into a serious financial and humanitarian crisis, caused by the freezing of billions of assets held abroad and the sudden halt in international aid which carried the country at arm’s length for 20 years, and which is now coming back in dribs and drabs.
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