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Strong earthquake kills at least 950 in Afghanistan


 An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 killed 950 people in Afghanistan early on Wednesday, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.

Wednesday's quake was the deadliest since 2002. It struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the US Geological Survey (USGC) said.

The landlocked country's eastern province of Paktika was the most affected, with reports of significant damage from the areas of Giyan, Nakai, Bermal and Zerak. In Khost province, the area of Seprai bore the brunt of the early morning tremors.

Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada expressed grief over the loss of life and directed all concerned officials and departments to take immediate steps to give relief to the affected families.

Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground. Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said an interior ministry official, Salahuddin Ayubi.

"The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to collect details."

Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said on Twitter.

"Strong and long jolts," a resident of the Afghan capital, Kabul, posted on the website of the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).

"It was strong," said a resident of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.

Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble.

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The head of the Taliban administration's natural disaster ministry, Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, said the majority of deaths were in the province of Paktika, where 100 people were killed and 250 injured.

Read Minister calls for precautionary measures as flood fears mount

Another 25 people were killed in Khost and five in Nangarhar province, he said, adding that investigations were being conducted to determine if there were more casualties.

As per Reuters, there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan. However, according to local media reports, at least one death has been recorded in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over in August, as U.S.-led international forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.

In response to the Taliban takeover, many governments have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan's banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.

PM Shehbaz offers condolences

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed grief over the loss of lives and destruction caused in Afghanistan, particularly in Paktika, due to the earthquake, and prayed for the departed souls and their families.

"We stand with our Afghan brothers and sisters in this time of need," the premier said in a statement.

Shehbaz said Pakistan will help Afghanitstan in anyway it can, adding that the concerned authorities have been directed to provide aid to Afghanistan.

 

Additional reporting by Shahabullah Yousafzai


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