- Malu Cursino
- BBC correspondent
Afghanistan is hit by a catastrophic 6.1-magnitude earthquake, and the Taliban regime appeals for international aid. The earthquake has killed more than 1,000 people and injured at least 1,500.
An unknown number of people are still trapped and buried under the rubble, most of which are mud-built houses.
The southeastern province of Paktika is the worst affected area, and the United Nations is struggling to provide emergency shelter and food aid.
Currently, rescue operations are being hampered by heavy rains and resource shortages.
Survivors and rescuers told the BBC that some villages near the epicentre were completely destroyed, along with roads and mobile phone towers – and they feared a further increase in the death toll.
The worst earthquake the country has experienced in nearly 20 years is a major challenge for the Taliban regime. The Islamic political force returned to power last year after the fall of the Western-backed government.
The quake struck 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the city of Khost and was felt as far away as Pakistan and India.
Afghanistan is in the midst of a twin economic and humanitarian crisis, with senior Taliban official Abdul Qahar Balkhi saying the government is “financially incapable of providing the people with the assistance they need”.
He said aid groups, neighbouring countries and world powers were all providing assistance, but added: “The scale of assistance needs to be scaled up to a very high level because this is a devastating earthquake that has not been seen in decades. .”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said there had been “full mobilization” about the disaster. U.N. officials said health teams, medical supplies, food and emergency shelters were on their way to areas affected by the earthquake.
Basic overview of Afghanistan
- Taliban in power: The hardline Islamist force was overthrown by a US-led military coalition nearly 20 years ago and took over Afghanistan last year
- There is a food crisis on the ground: basic needs of more than a third of the population are not being met, while the economy struggles as foreign aid and cash dry up when the Taliban seize power
- Women’s rights are restricted: they are ordered to cover their faces in public places, and teenage girls are not allowed to go to school
Most of the dead so far have been in the Gayan and Barmal districts of Bakdika province.
One survivor, Shabir, told the BBC: “There was a boom and then my bed started shaking.”
“The ceiling collapsed. I was trapped, but I could see the sky. I dislocated my shoulder and hurt my head, but I got out. I’m sure the seven or nine people in the family who were in the same room as me at the time were all died.”
A doctor in Pakistan said there were also medical staff among the victims.
“Before the earthquake, we didn’t have enough people and facilities, and now the earthquake has destroyed what we have,” the nurse said. “I don’t know how many of my colleagues are still alive.”
A local reporter told the BBC that after the quake, communication became difficult due to the damage to mobile phone towers, and the death toll was likely to increase further.
“A lot of people don’t know about their relatives because their phones don’t work,” he said. “Our brother and his family were dead, and I didn’t know until many hours later. Many villages were destroyed. “
Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes because it is located in a zone of active crustal activity. Several crustal fault lines, such as Chaman fault, Hari Rud fault, Central Badakhshan fault and Darvaz fault, are located in the area. in the underground structure.
Over the past decade, more than 7,000 people have died in earthquakes in the country, according to the United Nations Department for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The average number of people who die from earthquakes each year is 560.
As recently as January, two consecutive earthquakes in the western part of the country killed more than 20 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.
Even before the Taliban took power, Afghan emergency services struggled to cope with deaths from natural disasters – with few planes and helicopters available to rescuers.
More recently, the country has faced a shortage of medical supplies.
According to the United Nations, 93 percent of households in Afghanistan face food insecurity. The Red Cross’s Lucien Christen said Afghanistan’s “dire economic situation” meant “they (Afghan families) couldn’t figure it out at home”.