Earthquake in Afghanistan: More than 1,000 people died in a magnitude 5.9 tremor

The humanitarian catastrophe comes at a difficult time for the Taliban-ruled country, which is currently beset by hunger and economic crises.

The shocks hit at 1:24 am local time on Wednesday (4:54 a.m. ET on Tuesday) about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which is near the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the USGS, which put it on an amber alert — indicating a relatively localized impact.

According to the State Ministry for Disaster Management in Paktika province, most of the deaths were in Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok districts.

The death toll is more than 1,000 and at least 1,500 people were injured “in Gayan and Barmal districts of Paktika province alone,” said Mohammad Amin Hozaifa, head of Paktika province’s information and culture department, in a telephone conversation on Wednesday CNN.

The official expects the death toll to increase as search and deployment missions continue.

Afghans evacuate the wounded after the quake in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province, in this photo released by the state-run Bakhtar news agency.

Twenty-five people were killed and several others injured in neighboring Khost province, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the civil protection agency said.

Photos from Paktika province, south of Khost province, show houses reduced to rubble with only a wall or two standing among the rubble and broken roof beams.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resource management expert, said the earthquake coincided with heavy monsoon rains in the region – leaving traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.

“The timing of the earthquake (in the) darkness of the night … and the shallow 10-kilometer depth of its epicenter resulted in higher casualties,” he added.

A team of medics and seven helicopters have been dispatched to the area to transport injured people to nearby hospitals, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Nearly half of the country’s population – 20 million people – are suffering from acute hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report in May. It’s a situation exacerbated by the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021, which led to the United States and its allies freezing about $7 billion of the country’s foreign exchange reserves and cutting off international funding.

The situation has crippled an economy already heavily dependent on aid. Following last year’s chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the economy went into freefall when the World Bank forecast in April that a “combination of falling incomes and rising prices has led to a serious deterioration in household living standards.”

Many of the areas
The earthquake struck at 1:24 a.m. about 46 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost.

The Taliban held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to organize the transport of the injured and material aid for the victims and their families, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.

Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called the meeting at the country’s presidential palace to order all relevant authorities to send emergency teams to the affected area, Mujahid said in a tweet.

“Measures have also been taken to provide cash assistance and treatment,” Mujahid said, adding that authorities “have been instructed to use air and land transport for the delivery of food, clothing, medicine and other necessities, as well as for the transport of the wounded.” to use”.

Afghan Deputy Minister of State for Disaster Management Mawlawi Sharafuddin Muslim said Wednesday that “The Islamic Emirate will pay AFN 100,000 ($1,116.19) for the families of those killed in the earthquake and 50,000 ($558.10). US dollars) to the families of these individuals.”

The government also stressed the need for foreign aid.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for the generous support of all international organizations, individuals and foundations of all countries to provide and provide urgent humanitarian assistance,” said a press statement from the country’s diplomatic missions.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams are on the ground for emergency response, including providing medicines, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.

Volunteers from the Afghan Red Crescent Society are helping those affected by the earthquake in Giyan district.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered his condolences and support in a tweet on Wednesday. “I am deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake in Afghanistan which has resulted in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “The people of Pakistan share the grief and heartache of their Afghan brethren. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan at this time of need.”

India expressed “sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families,” according to a tweet by India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday.

Pope Francis said he prayed “for those who have lost their lives and for their families” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope help can be sent there to help all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan has a long history of earthquakes, many of which occur in the mountainous Hindu Kush region bordering Pakistan.

In 2015, an earthquake that shook parts of South Asia killed more than 300 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
More than 1,000 people died in two earthquakes in the Nahrin region of northwestern Afghanistan in 2002. A powerful earthquake struck the same region in 1998, killing about 4,700 people, according to records from the National Center for Environmental Information.

CNN’s Hada Messia, Aliza Kassi, and Martin Goillandeau contributed to this report.