Authorities said an earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday morning, killing at least 255 people.
Information about the magnitude 6 earthquake that hit Paktika province is still scarce, but this is due to the fact that the international community has largely abandoned Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of the country last year amid the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from the longest war in its stories.
This is likely to complicate any relief effort for this country of 38 million people.
The state news agency Bakhtar reported the death toll and reported that rescuers arrived by helicopter. News agency CEO Abdul Waheed Ryan tweeted that 90 homes had been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people were believed to be trapped under the rubble.
Footage from Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan, shows casualties being put into helicopters to be airlifted out of the area. Images widely circulated online from the province show ruined stone houses, with residents digging through mud bricks and other rubble.
Bakhtar posted footage of a resident receiving intravenous fluids from a plastic chair near the ruins of his home, while other people were stretched out on gurneys.
“A strong earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our compatriots and destroying dozens of homes,” Taliban government deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi tweeted separately. “We are calling on all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further disaster.”
According to Ryan, authorities in neighboring Khost province also believed that there were also dozens of injured and dead as a result of the earthquake.
According to the meteorological department of neighboring Pakistan, the magnitude of the earthquake was 6.1. The tremors were felt in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the eastern province of Punjab.
The European seismological agency EMSC said the quake was felt over 310 miles away by 119 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Mountainous Afghanistan and the larger region of South Asia along the Hindu Kush mountains, where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, have long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes. Poor construction of houses, hospitals and other buildings puts them at risk of collapse during earthquakes, while landslides remain a common occurrence in the mountains of Afghanistan.
In 2015, a massive earthquake in the northeast of the country killed more than 200 people in Afghanistan and neighboring northern Pakistan. A similar 6.1 earthquake in 2002 killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan. And in 1998, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks in the remote northeast of Afghanistan claimed the lives of at least 4,500 people.