The death toll from an earthquake in Afghanistan on Wednesday (June 22) hit 1,000, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.
Red flares marked the spot for helicopters to land in the Paktika province to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food.
Houses were reduced to rubble and bodies swathed in blankets lay on the ground
The quake struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGC) said.
Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister for Disaster Management, Mawlawi Sharafuddin, said the government will be giving out 100,000 AFN ($1,116.19) cash to victims’ families and 50,000 AFN ($558.10) to the families with injured people.
Mounting a rescue operation will prove a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country last August and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions.
Pope Francis speaking from the Vatican offered his sympathy to the victims, adding “I hope that with everyone’s help, the suffering of the Afghan people can be alleviated.”
Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, the EMSC said on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.
The EMSC put the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1, though the USGC said it was 5.9.
Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.