Magnitude 6.1 shakes Afghanistan, at least 280 dead


At least 280 have died after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit Afghanistan’s Paktika province on Wednesday, according to the Afghan disaster management authority.

Information remained scarce on the magnitude 6.1 tremor, but it comes as the international community has largely left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year amid the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from the longest war in its history.

That likely will complicate any relief efforts for this country of 38 million people.

The quake struck about 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the US Geological Survey (USGC) said.

The state-run Bakhtar news agency reported the death toll and said rescuers were arriving by helicopter. The news agency’s director-general, Abdul Wahid Rayan, wrote on Twitter that 90 houses have been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people are believed trapped under the rubble.

“Strong and long jolts,” a resident of the Afghan capital, Kabul, posted on the website of the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC).

Footage from Paktika province near the Pakistan border showed victims being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area. Images widely circulating online from the province showed destroyed stone houses, with residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble.

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

EMSC, said the earthquake’s tremors were felt over 500 kilometers by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over in August 2021, as US-led international forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.

In response to the Taliban takeover, many governments have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.

Humanitarian aid has continued and international agencies such as the United Nations operate in the country.

A Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesperson said they would welcome help from any international organization.

Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.

In 2015, an earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan.

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