At least 1,030 dead and 1,500 injured in 5.9 earthquake in Afghanistan

The earthquake struck on Tuesday night some 46 kilometres from Khost, capital of the province of the same name
terremoto afganistan

PHOTO/FILE  -   Afghanistan earthquake death toll rises to 1,030 and 1,500 injured

Afghan authorities on Wednesday raised to 1,030 the death toll and more than 1,500 the number of people injured in last night's 5.9-magnitude earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, as the search for survivors continues in the biggest disaster since the Taliban came to power.

" 950 people were killed and 610 injured" in the earthquake, which mainly hit two provinces in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan, Deputy Minister for Disaster Management and Response Mawlavi Sharfuddin Muslim told a news conference in the first instance

The latest death and injury toll was also confirmed to Efe by a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Disaster Management and Response, Mohammad Nasim Haqqani, who said the worst-hit province was Paktika, followed by Khost and Nangarhar.

The earthquake was recorded on Tuesday night about 46 kilometres from Khost, capital of the province of the same name, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which also reported a 4.5-magnitude aftershock.

In addition, in neighbouring Pakistan at least one person died "when the roof of his house collapsed due to the earthquake", Taimoor Ali, spokesman for the Disaster Management Authority of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the event occurred, told Efe.

Images shared on social media show many houses destroyed and injured people being treated on stretchers in the open in the affected areas of Afghanistan.

The Rescue

The Taliban government said it is using all its resources in rescue operations, sending aid, helicopters and medical supplies, while appealing for help from humanitarian organisations in the country.

"The government is working within its means. We hope the international community and relief agencies will also help our people in this desperate situation," Taliban leader Anas Haqqani tweeted.

The International Red Cross and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), among others, announced the immediate dispatch of assistance to the affected areas.

OCHA and the UN "are assessing needs and responding to the damage following last night's earthquake that has claimed hundreds of lives," said the UN Secretariat's deputy representative for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov

"Aid is on its way," he added.

Humanitarian aid was already a vital issue in Afghanistan, which has been in the grip of a humanitarian crisis since the Islamists came to power almost a year ago and international sanctions.

With scarce resources, the Taliban were already struggling to meet the country's basic needs, and limited forces to deal with large-scale emergencies in a timely manner.

Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush, a highly active seismic zone and a common source of earthquakes in the region

In mid-January another 5.3 earthquake struck north-western Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people, according to the UN, and destroying 800 homes, mostly flimsy mud-brick houses, in different districts of Badghis province.

Also in October 2015, a 7.7 earthquake with an epicentre in the far north-east of the country left more than a hundred dead in Afghanistan and almost 300 dead in neighbouring Pakistan, where more than 2,000 people were also injured.