Afghanistan reels from devastating quake as death toll tops 1,000

  • At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 600 injured after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocked remote parts of southeastern Afghanistan.
  • Some 130 injured people have been transferred to hospitals, according to the United Nations.
  • Authorities say hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the underdeveloped region.
  • Tremors could be felt in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, where there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

These are the latest updates:

UN chief ‘saddened’ by Afghanistan earthquake

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he was “saddened” by the deadly earthquake that hit eastern Afghanistan.

“I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake,” Guterres said.

“My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan who are already reeling from the impact of years of conflict, economic hardship and hunger. I convey my deep condolences to the families of the victims and wish speedy recovery to the injured,” he added.

“The United Nations in Afghanistan is fully mobilized. Our teams are already on the ground assessing the needs and providing initial support,” he said.


US assessing response to Afghanistan earthquake: White House

Jake Sullivan, US national security advisor, says President Joe Biden has directed USAID and other federal government entities to assess how it can respond to help those most affected by Afghanistan’s earthquake.

“We are committed to continuing our support for the needs of the Afghan people as we stand with them during and in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy,” Sullivan said in a statement released by the White House.


Turkey in best position to send rescue teams to Afghanistan: UN

The United Nations says it does not have search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan and Turkey is “best positioned” to provide it.

“We spoke about it with the embassy of Turkey here on the ground and they’re waiting for the formal request,” Ramiz Alakbarov, the deputy UN envoy in Afghanistan, said.

“We will be able to make such request only after the discussion with the de-facto authorities and based on what is the reality on the ground,” he said.

“Our teams do not have specific equipment to take people from under the rubble. This has to rely mostly on the efforts of the de-facto authorities, which also has certain limitations in that respect,” he added.


Villages ‘razed to the ground’

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesman for Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, says entire villages have been razed to the ground.

“Initial preliminary information suggests 990 civilians have lost their lives and more than 600 are wounded. Entire villages have been razed to the ground,” Balkhi said.

“The government, despite the sanctions that have been imposed by the international community and its assets been frozen, has done whatever it can in its capacity. The Afghan Red Crescent has immediately dispatched emergency aid to the area along with the Turkish Red Crescent and some of the other relief agencies that are present here,” he added.

“The prime minister of Afghanistan has announced 100 million afghani, the local currency, cash assistance to the victims and their families,” he said.


About 1,800 homes destroyed in one district: UN

The UN children’s agency says there are people still trapped underneath the rubble.

Speaking to UK broadcaster Sky, Sam Mort, UNICEF’S Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Civic Engagement, said about 1,800 homes were destroyed in one of the affected districts.

“These are very simple homes made of mud bricks that crumble really, really easily,” she said.

“We are getting some teams into some areas, but the more rural and remote areas that have been affected by landslides, we’ve had a lot of rain in the last 48 hours, we’ve got roads blocked, so it’s more difficult to get to some of those areas,” she added.


Pope Francis offers prayers for Afghanistan quake victims

Pope Francis has called on the world to help Afghanistan as the country deals with the effects of today’s devastating earthquake.

“In the last few hours, an earthquake caused victims and enormous damage in Afghanistan. I would like to express my closeness to the injured and those who have been affected by the quake. And, in particular, I pray for those who lost their lives and their families,” Francis said.

“I hope that with the help of all we can ease the suffering of the dear Afghan population,” he added.


Timeline: Deadly earthquakes in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has a long history of powerful tremors that have caused fatalities.

The magnitude 5.9 tremor in the early hours of Wednesday flattened hundreds of homes in the southeastern provinces of Paktika and Khost, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring some 600.

Below is a list of the powerful quakes that have caused fatalities in the country over the past 30 years.

INTERACTIVE - Afghanistan earthquake timeline


China says ready to provide emergency support to Afghanistan

China says it is ready to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan following today’s powerful earthquake.

Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin expressed condolences to the victims of the earthquake and confirmed that no Chinese casualties had so far been reported.

“Afghanistan is a friendly neighbour of China, and China is willing to provide emergency humanitarian assistance according to the needs of the Afghan side,” Wang said.


Video shows Afghanistan earthquake destruction

Video courtesy Ismail Zadran


Earthquake the “last thing” Afghanistan needed

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Obaidullah Baheer, founder of Save Afghanistan from Hunger, said the devastating earthquake that hit Afghanistan will make the already dire humanitarian situation in the country worse.

“The situation is horrific. This is the last thing Afghanistan needed. They were already facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history and now this,” Baheer told Al Jazeera.

“This is probably one of the worst earthquakes Afghanistan has seen in recent years. The problem is a lot of these areas and Afghanistan in general lies on a faultline. Most of the areas hit by the quake are mountainous regions and people live on the sides of the mountains or in the valleys which makes them especially vulnerable to landslides that come as a result of earthquakes,” he added.


More than 130 wounded transferred to hospitals: OCHA

At least 130 injured people have been transferred to Sharan, Paktika and Urgun hospitals, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said in its first flash update following Afghanistan’s quake.

Up to 1,800 homes were reportedly destroyed or damaged in Gayan, representing 70 percent of the district’s housing stock, the organisation said.

The ministry of defense dispatched five helicopters to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuations, as well as one medical team to Gayan district.

UNICEF has also deployed at least 12 teams of health workers to Gayan district, and several mobile health and nutrition teams to Barmal district in Paktika province and Spera district in Khost province.


UN, EU offer emergency assistance to affected communities

The United Nations and European Union have offered assistance in response to the magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck Afghanistan’s southeastern provinces.

“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted.

Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”


Taliban calls for international aid as Western sanctions persist

Mounting a rescue operation could prove a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country in August and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions.

Afghanistan’s emergency response teams had been stretched thin even before the Taliban takeover as they dealt with natural disasters that frequently struck the country.

Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official, said “the government is working within its capabilities.

“We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation,” he wrote on Twitter.


Death toll from devastating Afghanistan quake tops 1,000

More than 1,000 people have been killed and upwards of 1,500 injured in southeastern Afghanistan, the Culture and Information Department has told Al Jazeera.

Neighbouring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said the quake’s epicentre was in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, some 50km (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost. Buildings were also damaged in Khost province, and tremors were felt some 375km (230 miles) away in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.


Situation ‘getting worse by the hour’: UNICEF

The situation in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces hit by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake is “getting worse by the hour,” Samantha Mort, Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at UNICEF, has told Al Jazeera.

Mort said access to the remote provinces was complicated by recent landslides due to heavy rainfall but that UNICEF’s teams were able to reach some of the affected areas.

“There will be desperate efforts ongoing at the moment to uncover people who are trapped under the rubble and get them to hospital,” she added. “Our teams are there giving emergency first aid to those who are injured.”


PM convenes emergency meeting to coordinate relief efforts

Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund has convened an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to coordinate the relief efforts.

Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, urged aid agencies to send teams to the area.

“We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe,” he wrote on Twitter.

UN resident coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, said more help was being mobilised.


Helicopters taking bodies, wounded to Kabul and other provinces

Rescuers have rushed to the remote Paktika province by helicopter, some 50km (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost.

People wrapped in blankets were waiting to board helicopters, the Associated Press reported. Some were treated on the ground.

Ismail Zadran, a local resident and social activist of Zerok district of Paktika province, told Al Jazeera that 152 people were killed in the Geyan district and several hundred were wounded. In Danggar Algad area, in the Barmal district of Paktika province, 140 people were killed and several hundred were wounded.


Hundreds likely trapped under the rubble: Official

Muhammad Amin Huzaifa, head of Paktika Culture and Information Department, told Al Jazeera the earthquake made victims in Geyan, Zerok, Barmal and Naka districts of the Paktika province.

Homes were razed to the ground and hundreds of people were likely trapped under the rubble, Huzaifa said.

A collapsed home is seen following a powerful earthquake in Afghanistan.
Homes were razed to the ground by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake [Al Jazeera/Stringer]

Afghan authorities: Hundreds of homes destroyed in Paktika

Authorities are reporting hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the underdeveloped Paktika region, Afghan journalist Ali M Latifi said, reporting from Kabul.

“Authorities have sent helicopters and are calling for aid agencies to come in and rescue people from the rubble. But it’s a remote area and harder to reach,” Latifi told Al Jazeera.


Death toll from Afghanistan earthquake at least 920: Disaster ministry

The death toll from an overnight earthquake in Afghanistan has risen to at least 920, the country’s deputy minister for disaster management has said.

“So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured,” Sharafuddin Muslim told a press conference.

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