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At least 1,000 killed in Afghanistan earthquake

The latest disaster comes as Afghanistan is battling a severe humanitarian crisis

A map showing the epicenter of a 5.9-magnitifude earthquake in Afghanistan that hit in the early hours of June 22

This photograph taken on June 22, 2022 and received as a courtesy of the Afghan government-run Bakhtar News Agency shows a member of the Afghan Red Crescent Society giving medical treatment to a victim following an earthquake in Afghanistan's Gayan district, Paktika province.(Photo by Bakhtar News Agency / AFP)

Published: June 22, 2022 07:18 AM GMT

Updated: June 23, 2022 04:51 AM GMT

A powerful earthquake in Afghanistan today killed at least 1,000 people and injured dozens more, with the toll expected to rise as rescuers reach remote areas.

The 5.9-magnitude quake struck hardest in the east, bordering Pakistan, where people already live hard lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover last August.

"Many houses were damaged and people trapped inside," government spokesman Bilal Karimi said.

Yaqub Manzor, a tribal leader from Paktika province, said survivors were mobilizing to help those affected. "The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas," he told AFP by telephone.

The quake struck at 1.30am local time in four districts of Paktita province. Tremors were felt across more than 500 kilometers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas. Some footage showed local residents loading victims into a helicopter.

Aid agencies have particularly stressed the need for greater disaster preparedness in Afghanistan, which remains extremely susceptible to recurring earthquakes, floods and landslides

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Scores of people were killed and injured in January when two quakes struck rural areas in the western province of Badghis, damaging hundreds of buildings.

In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.

The latest earthquake came at a time when Afghanistan is battling a severe humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country.

Aid agencies and the United Nations say Afghanistan needs billions of dollars this year to tackle the crisis.

Pope Francis offered prayers for victims of the earthquake at the end of his general audience on June 22.

"In the past few hours, an earthquake has claimed victims and caused extensive damage in Afghanistan. I express my sympathy to the injured and those affected by the earthquake, and I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and for their families. I hope that with everyone's help, the suffering of the dear Afghan people can be alleviated," he said.

Many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover but Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops' international relief and development agency, still has a presence there. 

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