Afghanistan: Earthquake kills at least 255 people in eastern Paktika province



The state-run Bakhtar news agency reported the death toll and said rescuers were arriving by helicopter. Authorities said that an earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing at least 255 people. Information remained scarce on the magnitude 6 earthquake that struck Paktika province. Still, it comes as the international community largely left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year amid the chaotic withdrawal of the U.S. military from the longest war in its history. That likely will complicate any relief efforts for this country of 38 million people.



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 had been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people are believed trapped under the rubble.


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.



Bakhtar posted footage of a resident receiving IV fluids from a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and others sprawled on gurneys.


"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 spokesman for the Taliban government, separately wrote on Twitter. "We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe."



Neighboring Pakistan's Meteorological Department put the earthquake at a magnitude of 6.1. Tremors were felt in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the eastern Punjab province.


The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake's tremors were felt over 500 kilometres (310 miles) by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Mountainous Afghanistan and the larger region of South Asia, where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, have long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes. In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the country's northeast killed over 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan.



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