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HomeEconomyAfghan officials scramble to reach quake zone, death toll 1,000 MPNRC
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Afghan officials scramble to reach quake zone, death toll 1,000 MPNRC

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KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan officials struggled to reach a remote area hit by an earthquake on Thursday that killed 1,000 people but poor communication and a lack of proper roads hampered their efforts, officials said.

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A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck early Wednesday in arid mountains with small settlements near the border with Pakistan, about 160 km (100 miles) southeast of Kabul.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we’re trying to get updates,” Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the Taliban’s top military commander in the worst-hit Paktika province, said, referring to the telephone network.

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He said about 1,000 people died and 1,500 were injured in the quake. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed.

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According to US government data, the toll is Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in two decades.

Disaster management officials said around 600 people were rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night.

A Reuters team said the city of Guyan, close to the quake’s epicenter, had suffered extensive damage and that most of its mud-walled buildings were damaged or completely collapsed.

The city, with only the most basic of roads, was bustling with Taliban soldiers and ambulances as a helicopter bringing relief material landed nearby, blowing away huge swaths of dust. About 300 people sat on the ground waiting for supplies.

The rescue operation will be a major test for hardline Islamist Taliban officials, who occupied the country last August after two decades of war and were cut off from much international aid because of sanctions.

The Taliban-led Defense Ministry is leading the rescue efforts.

The United Nations said its World Food Program (WFP) is sending food and logistics equipment to affected areas, initially aimed at supporting 3,000 households.

“After decades of conflict, severe drought and economic recession, the Afghan people are already facing an unprecedented crisis,” said Gordon Craig, WFP’s deputy country director in Afghanistan.

“Earthquakes will only add to the already massive human needs that they endure daily.”

Japan and South Korea both said they were also planning to send aid.

Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian Plate is pushing northwards into the Eurasian Plate.

In 2015, an earthquake struck the far Afghan northeast, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and adjacent northern Pakistan.

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