Foreign

Afghan Earthquake Leaves 280 Dead, Scores Wounded

A powerful earthquake has killed at least 280 people and left scores injured in Afghanistan, according to the country’s state news agency.

Pictures show landslides and ruined homes in eastern Paktika province, where rescuers are scrambling to treat the injured.

In remote areas, helicopters have been ferrying victims to hospitals.

The local Bakhtar News Agency said the death toll was likely to rise, adding more than 600 people were injured.

The quake struck about 44km (27 miles) from the south-eastern city of Khost shortly after 01:30 local time (21:00 Tuesday GMT).

“Unfortunately, last night there was a severe earthquake in four districts of Paktika province, which killed and injured hundreds of our countrymen and destroyed dozens of houses,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi tweeted.

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

Taliban officials have called for aid agencies to rush to the affected areas in the nation’s east.

Most of the casualties so far were in the Gayan and Barmal districts in Paktika, a local doctor told the BBC. Local media site Etilaat-e Roz reported a whole village in Gayan had been destroyed.

Tremors were felt across more than 500km of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Witnesses reported feeling the quake in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, as well as Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

However, there have been no immediate reports of casualties, and the earthquake caused little damage in Pakistan, according to BBC Urdu.

The earthquake – which hit the mountainous country during the early hours as many people slept – was a magnitude 6.1 quake at a depth of some 51km, according to seismologists.

Afghanistan is prone to quakes, as it’s located in a tectonically active region, over a number of fault lines including the Chaman fault, the Hari Rud fault, the Central Badakhshan fault and the Darvaz fault.

Earthquakes tend to cause significant damage in Afghanistan, where there are many rural areas where dwellings are unstable or poorly built.

Decades of conflict have made it difficult for the impoverished country to improve its protection against earthquakes and other natural disasters – despite efforts by aid agencies to reinforce some buildings over the years.

In the past 10 years, more than 7,000 people have been killed in earthquakes in the country, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports. There is an average of 560 deaths a year from earthquakes.

BBC/Simeon Ugbodovon

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