At least 90 houses have been destroyed and dozens of people are believed to be trapped under the rubble
The state-run news agency says at least 1000 are killed and more than 1,500 others have been injured, with significant damage to property seen across several districts.
Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, head of the Taliban administration’s natural disaster ministry, said earlier that the majority of deaths were in the province of Paktika.
Rescue workers are arriving at the site by helicopter, reported the state-run Bakhtar news agency.
According to the death toll given by Afghan emergency official Sharafuddin Muslim, today’s earthquake is now the deadliest since 2002, when a 6.1 magnitude temblor killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan.
Death toll could be ‘much higher’ as emergency services struggle to reach remote areas
Experts say the death toll could be much higher as the epicentre lies in a remote mountainous area.
“The epicentre of the earthquake was in eastern Paktika province – a very remote and very deprived area of Afghanistan which will be difficult for emergency services to access,” says Dr Orzala Nemat, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Service Institute.
“The villages that are affected by the earthquake are very close to the border with Pakistan and therefore extremely difficult to reach both in terms of infrastructure and security.”
“At present, we have an estimation of 950 people dead – but the true figure could be much higher because rescue teams and aid workers will find some areas difficult to reach.”
Authorities have since revised the figure of deaths to 1,000 as of Wednesday evening. More than 1,500 others are believed to be injured as many remain trapped under the rubble. This is believed to be the deadliest quake in Afghanistan since 2002.
Fear over aid response without ‘systematic governance’ in place
An Afghan scholar and activist says she is concerned about the aid response to last night’s earthquake without “systematic governance” in place in the country.
The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of western forces in August.
Dr Orzala Nemat, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Service Institute, said: “I’m worried about the aid response without a systematic form of governance in place.”
“This is an unprecedented level of crisis we are facing.”
She added: “Afghanistan has had landslides in the past couple of years where we lost a few hundred people. But this is the first time in years that we have had a disaster on this scale.”
“Although the UN and other aid workers are showing readiness, I’m concerned the situation could become chaotic without those governance structures in place”.
Imran Khan assures his govt in bordering province will facilitate medical assistance
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for the people of Afghanistan and assured that his party’s government in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will facilitate the necessary medical assistance for Afghans.
“My condolences & prayers go to the Govt & people of Afghanistan for the loss of lives suffered in the earthquake. I have asked the KP Govt to especially facilitate provision of all medical assistance,” the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf wrote.
The Paktika province in Afghanistan, where the epicentre of the earthquake was reported, shares boundaries with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region where some damages were reported earlier. However, it remains unclear whether it was the impact of the earthquake or the monsoon.
Afghanistan’s deadliest quake since 2002
The mountainous regions of Afghanistan, where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, have always been prone to earthquakes.
However, according to the death toll given by Afghan emergency official Sharafuddin Muslim, today’s earthquake is now the deadliest since 2002, when a 6.1 magnitude temblor killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan immediately after the US-led invasion overthrew the Taliban government following the 9/11 attacks.
According to experts, in most places in the world, an earthquake of this magnitude wouldn’t inflict such extensive devastation. But a quake’s death toll more often comes down to geography, building quality and population density, said Robert Sanders, a seismologist with the US Geological Survey.
“Because of the mountainous area, there are rockslides and landslides that we won’t know about until later reporting. Older buildings are likely to crumble and fail,” he said. “Due to how condensed the area is in that part of the world, we’ve seen in the past similar earthquakes deal significant damage.”
India expresses sympathy with Afghans
The Indian foreign ministry has expressed condolences for the people of Afghanistan, asserting that the country remains “committed to provide assistance and support” to people in the region.
Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of India’s ministry of foreign affairs, tweeted: “India expresses sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families, and to all those impacted by the tragic earthquake in Afghanistan.”
“We share the grief of the people of Afghanistan and remain committed to provide assistance and support in this hour of need.”
Reports of damage in border areas of Pakistan
There are some reports of damage to homes in some remote areas of Pakistan, near the Afghan border, but it was not immediately clear if that was due to rain or the earthquake, according to Taimoor Khan, a disaster management spokesperson in the area.
Pakistan’s Meteorological Department had put the earthquake at a magnitude 6.1 as the country felt tremors as far as the capital Islamabad and elsewhere in the eastern Punjab province.
The impact was felt as far as India’s western areas.
Pakistan’s prime minister Shahbaz Sharif offered his condolences over the earthquake, saying his nation will provide help to the Afghan people.
‘Response is on its way,’ says UN coordinator
The UN’s resident coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, expressed condolences to the victims and said that the world body’s agencies were responding to the earthquake’s devastation.
“Response is on its way,” he wrote on Twitter.
Rescue helicopter lands in Afghanistan after 6.1 magnitude earthquake
Rescue workers are arriving by helicopter to provide aid in the mountainous region of Paktika province where the epicentre of the earthquake is located, the state-run news agency Bakhtar reports.
The news agency’s director-general Abdul Wahid Rayan said earlier that many people continue to remain trapped under the rubble as the quake destroyed at least 90 houses in the difficult-to-reach area.
Tremors felt in Pakistan and India after 6.1 magnitude earthquake hits Afghanistan
Tremors from the powerful 6.1 magnitude earthquake were felt across over 500km in areas including in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said in a tweet.
The quake struck about 44km (27 miles) from the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan at a depth of 51km, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Full story: Almost 1,000 dead and many injured as massive earthquake hits Afghanistan
Almost 1,000 people have died after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit Afghanistan’s Paktika province early on Wednesday.
Disaster management officials revised the death toll up to at least 950 and said more than 600 others have been injured, with significant damage to property seen across several districts.
Today’s earthquake comes as Afghanistan reels under severe economic stress after the US withdrew its forces and the Taliban took control of the country last August.
My colleague Sravasti Dasgupta has all the latest on this here:
The 6.1 magnitude quake struck about 44km (27 miles) from the city of Khost