Afghanistan earthquake death toll tops 1,000, with over 1,500 injured

A powerful earthquake that struck Afghanistan early Wednesday killed at least 1,000 people and injured more than 1,500 others, officials said, per the state-run Bakhtar News Agency.

Driving the news: The magnitude 5.9 quake struck some 27 miles from the city of Khōst in southeastern Afghanistan, per the US Geological Survey (USGS). The casualties occurred in the provinces of Khōst and Paktika, near the Pakistan border, officials said.

  • The USGS originally reported that it was a “notable” 6.1 magnitude quake, which also shook parts of Pakistan.
  • It’s the deadliest quake to hit the country in about 20 years, per Reuters.

State of play: Videos shared by Bakhtar News Agency showed rescue crews and others searching through rubble for survivors.

  • Thousands of homes are believed to have been destroyed, Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, told reporters Wednesday morning. The quake hit as many people were sleeping.
  • The weather in the area and the remote locations of many of the towns and villages impacted by the quake have impeded rescue efforts, Alakbarov said.

What they’re saying: “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,” tweeted Bilal Karimi, a spokesperson for the ruling Taliban, per BBC Translation.

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

UN Secretary-General Secretary-General António Guterres called on the international community “to help support the hundreds of families hit by this latest disaster.”

  • He pointed to the humanitarian crisis already affecting millions of Afghans. “Now is the time for solidarity,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted later Wednesday the US is “working with our humanitarian partners to send medical teams to help those affected.”

  • “The earthquake in Afghanistan is a great tragedy, adding to an already dire humanitarian situation,” he added.
  • President Biden has directed USAID and other government partners to assess how they can help Afghanistan in the wake of the earthquake, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
  • Other countries also offer their support.
In this photo released by a state-run news agency Bakhtar, Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 22,
In this photo released by a state-run news agency Bakhtar, Afghans look at the destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan, on June 22. Photo: Bakhtar News Agency via AP

The big picture: The earthquake hit as Afghanistan continues to reel from a deepening humanitarian crisis.

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned last week that since the Taliban reclaimed the country August as the US ended its military presence there, it “has been plunged into a deep economic, social, humanitarian and human rights crisis.”
  • 93% of all households faced “a high level of food insecurity with differential, devastating impact on those most vulnerable,” Bachelet said in an update to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • Access to basic services has also diminished, with the World Health Organization estimating 18.1 million people were in need of health services, per Bachelet.

Go deeper: Deadly Afghanistan quake hits nation already reeling from economic, hunger crises

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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