Afghanistan earthquake toll exceeds 1,000 dead, more than 1,500 injured

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More than 1,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan after a powerful earthquake hit the country on Wednesday, according to media reports. A strong earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning near the city of Khost in the southeast of the country.

The most affected areas are in Spera district in Khost province and Barmala, Ziruk, Naka and Gayan districts in Paktika province.

“We have over 1,000 dead and over 1,500 injured. Many villages have been destroyed,” Amin Huzaifa, head of the culture and information department of Paktika province, told Sputnik.

The head of Paktika’s information and culture department, Mawlawi Huzifa, told TOLOnews that the earthquake happened around 1:30 a.m. last night.

He said many of the victims are from Giyan district of the province. According to local officials, helicopters and rescue teams have arrived in the area.

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Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said an emergency cabinet meeting was held today to discuss aid to those affected by the earthquake.

“As well as assisting those affected by the earthquake, all relevant organizations have been instructed to send rescue teams,” he said.

Abdullah Abdullah, the former president of the High Council for National Reconciliation offered his condolences to those affected by the earthquake.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the epicenter was 44 km from the city of Khost and measured 6.1 on the Richter scale. Search and rescue operations are ongoing and are being led by the de facto authorities.

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The disaster comes as Afghanistan continues to struggle with a severe economic crisis since the Taliban seized power as US-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war.

A UN agency said Afghanistan had asked aid agencies to help with rescue efforts and teams were being sent to the quake-hit area.

“The United Nations team and the Humanitarian Country Team in Afghanistan express their deepest sympathy to all those affected by this disaster. We will be posting a flash update later today with further details on the situation and the response,” said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (UNOCHA) said in a tweet.

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The UN and humanitarian partners have been asked to support the de facto disaster management authority in assessing and responding to immediate needs.

“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas,” he added.

The secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Dr Ramiz Alakbarov, said the UN was assessing needs and responding in the aftermath of last night’s earthquake.

“@OCHAAfg and @unafghanistan are assessing needs and responding in the aftermath of last night’s earthquake which claimed hundreds of lives. Our condolences to the families of those who died, the response is ongoing,” tweeted Alakbarov.

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