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Strong earthquake kills at least 950 people in Afghanistan

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake has hit southeastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Bakhtar News Agency)

At least 950 people have been killed and many more injured after a strong earthquake struck remote parts of southeastern Afghanistan, according to disaster management officials.

The 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, early on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said.

Officials revised the death toll up to at least 950 and said more than 600 others have been injured. The majority of confirmed deaths were reported in the province of Paktika.

Hundreds of people lost their lives in Barmal, Ziruk, Naka, and Gayan districts of Paktika province, the state-run Bakhtar News Agency reported.

“A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,” Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesperson for the Taliban government, wrote on Twitter.

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

Helicopters and rescue teams have arrived in the affected areas to tend to the wounded and fly in food and medical supplies. 

The death toll is likely to rise as information trickles in from remote mountain villages, media reports said. Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble. 

Taliban supreme commander Haibatullah Akhundzada offered his condolences to the Afghan nation in a statement. 

Rescue operations could be a difficult task for the Taliban administration, which took power in August following a chaotic US pullout and remains cut off from international aid because of sanctions.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said Afghanistan would welcome international help. 

Tremors were felt in neighboring Pakistani, including in capital, Islamabad, and in the eastern Punjab province.

In 2002 around 1,000 people were killed when a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit northern Afghanistan. Another earthquake of the same magnitude, as well as subsequent tremors, in the country’s remote northeast had killed at least 4,500 people in 1998.

[This item will be updated.]

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