Kabul, June 22 (EFE).- A magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan before dawn on Wednesday claimed up to 920 lives and wounded 600 more, said the authorities.
The earthquake hit the Paktika and Khost provinces at 1.24 am (local time), about 46 km (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which lies near the border with Pakistan.
Rescuers scrambled for survivors in the deadliest earthquake in decades to have devastated the war-ravaged nation, which is in the throes of back-breaking poverty and food crises.
It is the biggest disaster in Afghanistan since the Islamist Taliban militia returned to power in August of last year.
Following the overthrow of the US-backed government and the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, Washington and its western allies froze billions of dollars in the nation’s foreign reserves and cut off international support.
“(Some) 920 died and 610 were injured in the quake,” Deputy Minister for the State Ministry for Disaster Management Sharafuddin Muslem told reporters.
Mohammad Nasim Haqqani, the spokesperson for the ministry, said Paktika, Khost, and Nangarhar were the worst affected regions.
Social media users posted pictures of mostly-mud dwellings reduced to wreckage and rescue workers in the affected districts carrying injured individuals on stretchers.
The Taliban administration said it employed all available resources in order to conduct the rescue operations and deliver material help, including medical supplies, to the victims and their families.
The government has requested help from international humanitarian organizations.
“The government is working within its capabilities. We hope that the international community and aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation,” Taliban leader Anas Haqqani tweeted.
Various global aid groups said they were assessing the situation to provide relief to the affected areas.
UN agencies in Afghanistan “are assessing the needs and responding in the aftermath of the earthquake which has taken hundreds of lives,” said Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission.
“Response is on its way.”
The problem of international humanitarian assistance was already a crucial and hotly contested topic due to international sanctions in Afghanistan, which is beset by an economic and social catastrophe with escalating levels of poverty and starvation.
The Taliban have struggled to provide for the country’s everyday necessities with their limited resources.
The situation becomes much more dire when the nation must handle major calamities like the most recent earthquake.
The tremors were also felt in neighboring Pakistan and India.
At least one person died after the roof of his house collapsed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, Disaster Management official Taimoor Ali told EFE.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake had a 10-km depth, affecting the areas within a 250-km radius.