920 dead in powerful Afghanistan earthquake: local reports

A powerful magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Wednesday killed more than 900 people in eastern Afghanistan, the highest death toll from an earthquake in the nation in decades, according to local reports.

The earthquake also injured 610 people, according to the Taliban state-run news agency Bakhtar, which cited Mawlavi Sharfuddin Muslim, the deputy state minister for natural disaster management. However, officials warned the toll is likely to rise.

The numbers cannot be currently confirmed, as information around the quake in the remote region is scarce.

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said the epicenter of the earthquake was about 44 kilometers from Khōst, Afghanistan, in the Paktika province. The department also rated the magnitude higher, at 6.1.

Tremors from the quake were reportedly felt 375 kilometers, or 230 miles, away in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, according to The Associated Press.

The news agency also posted cellphone video of the earthquake’s destruction from an unidentified man, with the footage showing destroyed homes in the area.

“I’m doing this video to show that all people here are under the building,” the man says, according to NPR. “Under that house, five people. This house, six people. And in this house, 13 dead bodies still under. All the village completely is destroyed.”

Search and rescue efforts in the area are ongoing, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund set up an emergency meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul to coordinate a relief effort, deputy spokesman for the Taliban government Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.

He also called for international aid agencies to send teams to the area.

UNICEF’s Afghanistan representative, Mohamed Ayoya, said in a statement that the agency has sent mobile health and nutrition teams over, as well critical supplies to the country.

“UNICEF has dispatched several mobile health and nutrition teams to provide first aid to those who are injured,” Ayoya said.

“UNICEF is also distributing critical aid, including kitchen equipment, hygiene supplies including soap, detergent, towels, sanitary pads and water buckets, warm clothes, shoes and blankets, as well as tents and tarpaulins,” he added.

However, rescue efforts to Afghanistan will be complicated, as many international aid agencies left the country following the Taliban’s takeover. The rescue efforts are only made more tricky due to the remote areas and mountainous regions.

The deadly earthquake has the highest death toll since the 1998 quake in northeast Afghanistan, a 6.1  magnitude quake that killed at least 4,500 people.

Updated at 9:37 a.m.

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