At least 920 persons have died from the impact of a powerful earthquake which struck a border region of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening.
According to officials, another 1,500 persons got injured from the 5.9 magnitude quake. The toll is expected to rise as rescuers dig through collapsed buildings, AFP reports.
The incident comes at a time when Afghanistan is already battling a severe humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country.
Aid agencies and the United Nations say Afghanistan needs billions of dollars this year to tackle the crisis.
Meanwhile, the death toll has climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.
“So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured,” Sharafuddin Muslim, the deputy minister for disaster management, told a press conference in the capital, Kabul.
A leader from Paktika province, Yaqub Manzor, told newsmen that survivors and rescuers were scrambling to help those affected.
“The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas,” Manzor said.
A senior Taliban official, Anas Haqqani, said, “The government is working within its capabilities.
“We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted, “Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas.”
Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes — especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Scores of people were killed and injured in January when two quakes struck rural areas in the western province of Badghis, damaging hundreds of buildings.
In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.
From the Vatican City, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the latest quake.
“I express my closeness with the injured and those who were affected,” the 85-year-old pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience.