At least a thousand people have been killed in the powerful earthquake that struck southeastern Afghanistan overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, according to a senior official in one of the hardest-hit provinces. affected.
“The death toll has reached 1000 and this figure is increasing. People are digging grave after grave,” Paktika Province Information and Culture Department Chief Mohammad Amin Huzaifa said in a message to the press.
“Many houses have been damaged and people are trapped inside,” deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi told AFP.
“We call on aid agencies to provide immediate relief to the victims of the earthquake to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” he previously tweeted.
The 5-magnitude quake 9, occurred at a depth of 10 km around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, very close to the border with Pakistan, according to the United States Seismological Institute (USGS).
A second quake of magnitude 4.5 a hit almost the same place at the same time, according to the USGS.
According to Yaqub Manzor, a tribal leader from Paktika, many of the injured came from Giyan district in the province and were taken to hospital by ambulances and also helicopters.
“Local markets are closed and people have rushed (to help) to the affected areas,” he told AFP by telephone.
Photos posted on the social media shows collapsed houses in the streets of a village in this impoverished and hard-to-reach rural area.
Videos also show residents of the affected areas loading injured people into a helicopter.
Long limited in number and capacity, the emergency services in Afghanistan are unsuited to dealing with a major natural disaster on their own.
The earthquake was felt in several provinces of the region, and also in the capital Kabul, located about 200 km north of the epicenter of the earthquake.
It was also in neighboring Pakistan, but no damage or casualties were immediately reported there.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was “deeply saddened” by this tragedy and indicated that the Pakistani authorities were working to support their Afghan counterparts.
“The European Union is following the situation (…), and stands ready to coordinate and provide emergency aid Also tweeted his special envoy to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson. The UN has also said it is studying aid needs.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range which lies at the junction between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
These disasters can be particularly devastating due to the weak resistance of rural Afghan homes.
In October 2015, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.5 struck the Hindu Kush range, straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, causing the total more than 380 dead in these two countries.
Among the Afghan victims were 12 young girls, trampled in a panic as they tried to get out of their tottering school.
Since coming to power in Kabul last August, Afghanistan has been plunged into a serious financial and humanitarian crisis, caused by the freezing of billions of assets held abroad and the sudden cessation of international aid which has carried the country at arm's length for 20 years, and which is returning now in dribs and drabs.