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Deadliest Afghanistan quake in decades kills over 1,000 people


KABUL, JUNE 22: A powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border early June 22, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring 1,500 more, authorities said. Officials warned the death toll would likely rise.
Information remained scarce on the magnitude 6.1 temblor that damaged buildings in Khost and Paktika Provinces. Rescue efforts are likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year and the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from the longest war in its history.
Neighbouring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said the quake’s epicentre was in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, just near the border and some 50 kilometres (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost. Such temblors can cause severe damage, particularly in an area like this one where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common.
Footage from Paktika Province showed people being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area. Others were treated on the ground. One resident could be seen receiving IV fluids while sitting in a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and still more were sprawled on gurneys. Other images showed residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble from destroyed stone houses.
Afghan emergency official Sharafuddin Muslim gave the death toll in a news conference on June 22. Earlier, the Director-General of state-run Bakhtar news agency, Abdul
Wahid Rayan, wrote on Twitter that 90 houses have been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people are believed trapped under the rubble.
Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban Government, gave no specific death toll but wrote on Twitter that hundreds of people were killed and injured in the earthquake, which shook 4 districts in Paktika.
“We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe”, he wrote.
In Kabul, Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund convened an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to coordinate the relief effort for victims in Paktika and Khost.
The “response is on its way”, the UN Resident Coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, wrote on Twitter.
In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the country’s northeast killed over 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake in 2002 killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan. And in 1998, another earthquake of the same strength and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan’s remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people. (Agencies)