A powerful earthquake struck a rural mountainous region in southeastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing at least 920 people and injuring 600 others in the deadliest earthquake in two decades, authorities said.
Authorities have warned that the gloomy casualties are likely to rise anyway.
Information remains scarce on the 5.9 magnitude earthquake, but quakes of such magnitude are expected to cause serious damage in the remote area, where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common.
The quake comes as Afghanistan faces a severe humanitarian crisis, compounded by Western sanctions imposed after the Taliban took over the country last August.
Footage from Paktika shows that people were transported in helicopters to be transported from the area. Others were treated on the ground. One resident could be seen taking IV fluids while sitting in a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home, and even more people were lying in wheelchairs. Some images show residents digging through clay bricks and other rubble from destroyed stone houses.
Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Ahund convened an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to co-ordinate efforts to help victims in Paktika and Host.
Some remote areas of Pakistan have received reports of damage to homes near the Afghan border, but it was unclear whether it was due to rain or an earthquake, said Taimur Khan, a spokesman for the region’s disaster management.
Mountainous Afghanistan and the greater region of South Asia along the Hindu Kush have long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes.
In 2015, a major earthquake shook the northeastern part of the country, killing more than 200 people in Afghanistan and neighboring northern Pakistan. In 1998, an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale and subsequent earthquakes in the far northeast of Afghanistan killed at least 4,500 people.