Death toll for Afghan quake mounts amid rescue efforts

At least 600 injured with over 1,000 killed and many trapped, as bad weather impedes operations

KABUL • The death toll from an earthquake in Afghanistan continued to mount yesterday as information trickled in from remote villages.

Disaster management officials said it had crossed 1,000 with more than 600 injured.

Local officials, however, put the number of injured higher.

"A thousand dead, 1,500 injured, and this number might go up," Mr Mohammad Amin Hozaifa, information and culture director of the eastern province of Paktika, told Reuters.

"Many families have been lost. Injured people have been taken to Kabul and Gardez."

Most of the confirmed deaths were in Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, interior ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi said.

In the province of Khost, 25 were dead and 90 had been taken to hospital. Houses were reduced to rubble and bodies wrapped in blankets lay on the ground, photographs on Afghan media showed.

Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, Mr Ayubi said. But bad weather has impeded the efforts.

Yesterday's quake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 2002. It struck about 44km from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The BBC reported that it hit at about 1.30am, as people were sleeping. Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.

The EMSC put the earthquake's magnitude at 6.1, though the USGS said it was 5.9.

Supreme leader of the ruling Taliban Haibatullah Akhundzada offered his condolences in a statement.

Mounting a rescue operation will prove a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country last August and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions. Afghanistan is also grappling with a severe economic crisis since the US-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war.

Humanitarian aid has continued, however, with international agencies such as the United Nations operating.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said in its first response bulletin that humanitarian partners were preparing to assist affected families in Paktika and Khost provinces, in coordination with the Taliban authorities.

"Immediate needs identified include emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food assistance and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) support," Ocha said.

"Given the unseasonable, heavy rains and cold, emergency shelter is an immediate priority."

Ocha said the Taliban authorities had delivered food and emergency tents to families living in the open but further help was needed.

"The number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue operations are ongoing," it said.

"Humanitarian search and rescue teams... are on standby to deploy as needed."

Unicef, the UN children's agency, has also deployed at least 12 teams of health workers to Gayan, and several mobile health and nutrition teams to Barmal district in Paktika province and Spera district in Khost province, Ocha said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has also delivered 100 cartons of emergency medicine to Gayan and Barmal.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline Death toll for Afghan quake mounts amid rescue efforts. Subscribe