Death toll rises in Afghanistan earthquake

Afghan emergency officials say at least 920 people have been killed following an earthquake in eastern Afghanistan.

Published : Jun 22, 2022 16:06 IST

The state-run Bakhtar news agency said rescuers were arriving by helicopter.

The state-run Bakhtar news agency said rescuers were arriving by helicopter. | Photo Credit: Bakhtar News Agency/dpa/picture alliance

An earthquake in eastern Afghanistan has killed at least 920 people, an Afghan emergency official told a press briefing on June 22. The Taliban’s deputy minister for disaster management, Sharafuddin Muslim, said the number of dead was likely to rise.

“Unfortunately, last night there was a severe earthquake in four districts of Paktika province, which killed and injured hundreds of our countrymen and destroyed dozens of houses,” local official Bilal Karimi said on Twitter earlier. “We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe,” Karimi said.

What we know about the earthquake

The magnitude 6 quake struck around 44 kilometres (27 miles) from the city of Khost, located near the border with Pakistan. Abdul Wahid Rayan, Bakhtar news agency’s director general, said on Twitter that 90 houses were destroyed. Dozens of people are believed to be still trapped under the rubble. The earthquake’s tremors were felt over 500 kilometres (310 miles) by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, according to the European seismological agency EMSC, which put the magnitude at 6.1.

Franz Marty, a freelance journalist based in Afghanistan, told DW that residents were “already burying the dead while search for survivors is still ongoing.” Marty said he spoke on the phone with locals who said rainfall had started in Partkika, which hinders rescue efforts.

Pleading for help

A tribal elder from the Gyan district — one of the hardest hit areas — told DW that locals were in desperate need of urgent help. “Only in Gyan district, more than 190 people are killed and hundreds of others are injured. Residents are terrified, dead bodies and wounded people are laying in every direction,” said local elder Bakhtullah, who, like most Afghans, goes by only a first name. “[The] Taliban’s helicopters are transporting the wounded. The situation is devastating. Our people need help. We urgently need tents and food.” Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s resident coordinator, said on Twitter that “response is on it’s way.”

The disaster comes as Afghanistan battles a humanitarian and economic crisis since the Taliban seized power last year. Many international aid agencies had left after the Taliban takeover and the tumultuous withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan.

Region vulnerable to earthquakes

Afghanistan’s mountainous northeast lies in the area where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, making the region vulnerable to devastating earthquakes. In 2015, more than 200 people were killed in northeastern Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan as a major earthquake hit. Around 1,000 people were killed in a 6.1-magnitude quake in 2002, four years after another devastating 6.1 earthquake and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan’s remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.

fb/kb (AFP, AP, dpa)


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