PESHAWAR, Pakistan. — A massive earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan overnight yesterday, killing more than 1 000 and injuring more than 1 600, government officials said.
The earthquake flattened homes while many people were sleeping, with its epicentre in the mountainous area near the country’s border with Pakistan — about 27km from the city of Khost — according to the US Geological Survey, which put the magnitude at 5.9.
Tremors were felt in India and Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and the provincial capital of Peshawar, according to Pakistan’s National Seismic Monitoring Centre, but no severe damage or casualties were reported.
Maulawi Sharafuddin Muslim, acting deputy minister for the country’s disaster management authority, said at a news conference that “some villages have been completely destroyed.”
He said an emergency cabinet meeting had been convened and that Afghanistan’s prime minister was leading the response, working with state institutions and ministries to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.
Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesman for Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, said 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.
China said it was ready to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan after the earthquake.
Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said; “Afghanistan is a friendly neighbour of China, and China is willing to provide emergency humanitarian assistance according to the needs of the Afghan side.”
The United Nations said it did not have search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan and Turkey was “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,” said Ramiz Alakbarov, the deputy UN envoy in Afghanistan.
“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.” – Agencies