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Afghanistan struck by deadliest earthquake in 2 decades

June 22, 2022

An official said 1,000 people died after a magnitude 6 earthquake hit the mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan. The death toll is likely to rise as search efforts continue.

A Red Crescent aid worker walks toward a helicopter
Rescuers were arriving by helicopter to the remote region that usually takes hours to reach by carImage: Bakhtar News Agency/dpa/picture alliance

Toll in Afghanistan earthquake continues rising

An earthquake in eastern Afghanistan has killed at least 1,000 people, a local official said on Wednesday. 

 "The number is increasing. People are digging grave after grave," Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in Paktika, said in a message to journalists.

Earlier, local official Bilal Karimi said on Twitter: "Unfortunately, last night there was a severe earthquake in four districts of Paktika province, which killed and injured hundreds of our countrymen and destroyed dozens of houses."

What we know about the earthquake 

The magnitude 6 quake struck around 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the city of Khost, located near the border with Pakistan. 

A map showing the area hit by the earthquake

Abdul Wahid Rayan, director general of the Bakhtar state-run news agency, had said on Twitter that 90 houses were destroyed. 

Dozens of people are believed to be still trapped under the rubble.

The earthquake's tremors were felt over 500 kilometers (310 miles) by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, according to the European seismological agency EMSC, which put the magnitude at 6.1. 

Franz Marty, a freelance journalist based in Afghanistan, told DW that residents were "already burying the dead while search for survivors is still ongoing."

Marty said he spoke on the phone with locals who said rainfall had started in Partkika, which hinders rescue efforts.

Kowsar, who lost his father in the earthquake, told DW all the houses in his district had been destroyed. "Our food items are buried under debris. We need food and shelter urgently ... Mass graves are being dug and bodies are being buried in them."

Pleading for help 

A tribal elder from the Gyan district — one of the hardest hit areas — told DW that locals were in desperate need of urgent help.

"Only in Gyan district, more than 190 people are killed and hundreds of others are injured. Residents are terrified, dead bodies and wounded people are laying in every direction," said local elder Bakhtullah, who, like most Afghans, goes by only a first name.

"[The] Taliban's helicopters are transporting the wounded. The situation is devastating. Our people need help. We urgently need tents and food."

Erfanullah Sharafzoi, head of the Public Relation department of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), told DW that the death toll is likely to rise. "The ARCS has sent rescue and medical teams to four provinces. Help is also on its way that includes 1,500 tents and kitchenware. More aid is also enroute to the quake-hit areas."

Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN's resident coordinator, said on Twitter that "response is on it's way."

The disaster comes as Afghanistan battles a humanitarian and economic crisis that has worsened since the Taliban seized power last year. 

Many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and the chaotic withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the country

Region vulnerable to earthquakes 

Afghanistan's mountainous northeast lies in the area where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, making the region vulnerable to devastating earthquakes.

In 2015, more than 200 people were killed in northeastern Afghanistan and neighboring northern Pakistan as a major earthquake hit. 

Around 1,000 people were killed in a 6.1-magnitude quake in 2002, four years after another devastating 6.1 earthquake and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan's remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.

fb/kb (AFP, AP, dpa)