'People are digging grave after grave': Death toll from Afghanistan earthquake reaches 1,000

It is the deadliest earthquake the country has seen in 20 years



By Agencies

Published: Wed 22 Jun 2022, 9:43 AM

Last updated: Wed 22 Jun 2022, 10:11 PM

A powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said Wednesday, with the toll expected to rise as desperate rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.

The 6 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead hard lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover in August.

“People are digging grave after grave,” said Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in hard-hit Paktika, adding that at least 1,000 people had died in the province alone.

“It is raining also, and all houses are destroyed. People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told journalists.

The death toll climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.

Earlier, a tribal leader from Paktika 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 told AFP by telephone.

Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed scores of badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Some footage showed local residents loading victims into a military helicopter.

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently struck the country.

“The government is working within its capabilities,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official.

“We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”

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

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

Tomas Niklasson, 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.”

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes — especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Bakhtar posted footage of a resident receiving IV fluids from a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and others sprawled on gurneys.

“A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,” Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, separately wrote on Twitter. “We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”

Neighbouring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department put the earthquake at a magnitude 6.1. Tremors were felt in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the eastern Punjab province.

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The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake’s tremors were felt over 500 kilometres (310 miles) by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Mountainous Afghanistan and the larger region of South Asia, where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, has long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes.

In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the country’s northeast killed over 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan.


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