Afghanistan Earthquake Kills At Least 1,000 In Eastern Province

The Taliban are still trying to reconstitute government ministries abandoned by staff loyal to its previous Western-backed government, and it was not clear how officials arrived at the casualty tolls reported by Bakhtar.

In Kabul, Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund convened an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to coordinate the relief effort, and Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, wrote on Twitter to urge aid agencies to send teams to the area.

The “response is on its way,” the U.N. resident coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, wrote on Twitter.

That may prove difficult given the situation Afghanistan finds itself in today. After the Taliban swept across the country in 2021, the U.S. military and its allies fell back to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport and later withdrew completely. Many international humanitarian organizations followed suit because of concerns about security and the Taliban’s poor human rights record.

In the time since, the Taliban has worked with Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on restarting airport operations in Kabul and across the country — but nearly all international carriers still avoid the country, and reluctance on the part of aid organizations to put any money in the Taliban’s coffers could make it difficult to fly in supplies and equipment.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society, however, sent some 4,000 blankets, 800 tents and 800 kitchen kits to the affected area, according to Bakhtar’s director-general, Abdul Wahid Rayan.

The Italian medical aid group Emergency, which still operates in Afghanistan, said it sent seven ambulances and staff to the areas closest to the quake zone.

“The fear is that the victims will increase further, also because many people could be trapped under collapsed buildings,” said Stefano Sozza, country director for Emergency in Afghanistan. “This latest tragedy cannot but worsen further the condition of fragility and economic and social difficulties which Afghanistan has experienced for months.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said his nation would provide help. At the Vatican, Pope Francis offered prayers for all those killed and injured and for the “suffering of the dear Afghan population.”

Some remote areas of Pakistan saw reports of damage to homes near the Afghan border, but it wasn’t immediately clear if that was due to rain or the earthquake, said Taimoor Khan, a disaster management spokesperson in the area.

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

Mountainous Afghanistan and the larger region of South Asia along the Hindu Kush mountains has long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes.

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Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Jon Gambrell and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.