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At least 900 killed in overnight Afghanistan earthquake: Minister

GARDEZ, AFGHANISTAN (AFP, REUTERS) - An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 killed at least 920 people in Afghanistan on Wednesday (June 22), the country's minister in charge of disasters said.

More than 600 people were injured and the toll is likely to rise as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.

The quake struck about 44km from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, at a depth of 51km, the United States Geological Survey said. 

“Strong and long jolts,” a resident of the Afghan capital, Kabul, posted on a the website of the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC). 

Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble and bodies covered in blankets on the ground.

The EMSC put the magnitude at 6.1 though the USGC said it was 5.9.

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

In Khost province, 25 people had been killed and 90 taken to hospital, he said.  

“The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to collect details,” he said.  

Authorities had launched a rescue operation and helicopters were being used to reach the injured and take in medical supplies and food, he added. 

Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the EMSC said on Twitter.  

“It was strong,” said a resident of the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over in August, as US-led international forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.

More than 600 people were injured and the toll is likely to rise as information trickles in from remote mountain villages. PHOTO: WHO AFGHANISTAN/TWITTER
The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over in August. PHOTO: BAKHTAR NEWS AGENCY

In response to the Taliban takeover, many governments have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.

Humanitarian aid has continued and international agencies such as the United Nations operate in the country.  

An Afghan foreign ministry spokesman said they would welcome help from any international organisation.

Helicopters were being used to reach the injured and take in medical supplies and food. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Yaqub Manzor, a tribal leader from Paktika province, said survivors were mobilising to help those affected.

"The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas," he told AFP by telephone.

Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate. 

In 2015, an earthquake struck the remote Afghan north-east, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan.

AfghanistanEARTHQUAKES