Afghanistan Earthquake Leaves 1,000 People Killed and 1,500 Injured

At least 1,000 people were killed and 1,500 injured after a powerful earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan, a ruling Taliban spokesperson told the media.

Images shared on social media showed houses and buildings destroyed by landslides.

Taliban officials, who regained power last year after the Western-backed government collapsed, appealed for international help with rescue efforts, saying hundreds of homes had been impacted.

The 6.1-magnitude quake struck shortly after 01:30 local time (21:00 GMT Tuesday) while people were sleeping, at a depth of 51 km, they said. It was the deadliest event to strike Afghanistan in the last 20 years.

Tremors were reportedly felt as far away as India and Pakistan. Witnesses also said the quake, which struck about 44 kilometers from the city of Khost in the country’s mountainous southeast, had been felt in the Afghan capital Kabul and the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

In Afghanistan, where rural areas predominate, houses are often unstable or poorly built. Therefore, earthquakes and other natural events can cause significant damage.

Locals described scenes of terror, death and destruction during the overnight earthquake, saying most of the victims had been “very young” children. The local hospital was reportedly overwhelmed and did not have the capacity to deal with a disaster of such magnitude.

Local emergency services were already overwhelmed and did not have enough planes or helicopters available for rescuers even before the Taliban took over, witnesses added.

The earthquake also caused damage to mobile phone towers, affecting communication. The death toll is expected to rise further as security personnel carries out rescue efforts.

Taliban officials have asked the UN to support them “in terms of assessing the needs and responding to those affected,” reported UNICEF envoy in Kabul Sam Mort.

UK special representative to Afghanistan Nigel Casey said his country had already contacted the UN and was ready to “contribute to the international response.”

Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes. The country is located in a tectonically active zone, specifically on a series of fault lines, including the Hari Rud Fault, the Chaman Fault, the Central Badakhshan Fault, and the Darvaz Fault.

According to the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 7,000 Afghan people have been killed in earthquakes in the past decade, including 20 people who were killed by consecutive earthquakes in the western region in January.