Afghanistan earthquake news and live updates: at least 1,000 dead
KABUL, Afghanistan – An earthquake that struck a remote and mountainous part of Afghanistan early Wednesday killed more than 1,000 people – a death toll expected to rise in an area where some residents live in clay houses and straw.
The 5.9 magnitude quake struck about 28 miles southwest of the city of Khost, a provincial capital in the southeast of the country, the United States Geological Survey said. But the worst damage occurred in the neighboring province of Paktika, located along the border with Pakistan.
Raees Hozaifa, director of information and culture at Paktika, said 1,000 people had been killed there and another 1,500 injured. In Khost province, Shabir Ahmad Osmani, the director of information and culture, said 40 people had died and more than 100 injured.
The toll made the earthquake the country’s deadliest in more than two decades, a period that included years of US military efforts against the Taliban before the fall of Afghanistan’s Western-backed government last summer.
“Almost all public and private hospitals are full of victims,” said Awal Khan Zadran, a doctor in Urgun district of Paktika. Some of the injured were taken to Kabul, the Afghan capital, by helicopters and others were transported to neighboring provinces, he said.
Search and rescue efforts, led by the Afghan Defense Ministry, were hampered by wind and heavy rain which prevented helicopters from landing safely, the UN emergency response agency said. United. Losses are likely to increase, the agency added.
Telecommunications are poor or non-existent in remote parts of the affected region, making it difficult to get a full damage report. The rugged border country of Paktika was the scene of heavy fighting before and after the Taliban took power.
Paktika is a poor and sparsely populated province. With little land flat enough for agriculture, many people make a living in the forests, illegally cutting down trees to sell as firewood.
Nearly 2,000 homes were destroyed, said Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative for Afghanistan for the UN Afghan families are usually large and several families sometimes live together, he said, and the earthquake will likely displace many people.
Mohammad Almas, aid and appeals manager at Qamar, an Afghan charity active in the region, said that up to 17 members of one family were killed in one village when their house collapsed, he said; only one child survived.
Almas, reached by phone in Pakistan, said more than 25 villages were almost completely destroyed, including schools, mosques and homes. In Paktika, local residents said a landslide that followed the earthquake completely wiped out at least one village.
Sarhadi Khosti, 26, who lives in Sperah district of Khost province, said he was woken up by the earthquake after 1 a.m. and a number of houses – especially those in earth or wood – had been completely destroyed. He said helicopters had transported some of the injured to hospitals in Kabul and neighboring provinces.
“At the moment we are still busy removing the dead or injured from under the rubble,” he said.
Wednesday’s earthquake was felt in Kabul and neighboring northern Pakistan, according to a map that the European Mediterranean Seismological Center has posted on its website. The USGS said a second earthquake, measuring 4.5, struck about 30 miles southwest of Khost about an hour later.
In March 2002, at least 1,500 people were killed when a series of magnitude 5-6 earthquakes struck northern Afghanistan, destroying a district capital in the Hindu Kush. A 1998 earthquake measuring 6.9 killed up to 4,000 people in the northern province of Takhar.
Safiullah Padshah reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Mike Ives from Seoul. Isabella Kwai and Emma Bubola contributed reporting from London and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan.