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The death toll from the earthquake in Afghanistan is 1,000. reached MPNRC

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KABUL (AFP) – The death toll from an overnight earthquake in Afghanistan has reached at least 1,000, an official in one of the worst-hit provinces said on Wednesday.

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The 6.1-magnitude quake hit hardest in the formerly rugged areas, where people are living hard lives in a country already gripped by a humanitarian disaster, made worse by the Taliban takeover in August.

The death toll continued to rise throughout the day as casualties were reported from inaccessible areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada warned it could rise further.

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“So far we have information that at least 920 people have been killed and 600 have been injured,” Deputy Minister for Disaster Management Sharafuddin Muslim told a news conference in the capital Kabul.

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Earlier, a tribal leader from Paktika province – one of the hardest-hit areas – said survivors and rescuers were scrambling to help those affected.

“The local markets are closed and everyone has reached the affected areas,” Yakub Manzoor told AFP over the phone.

Images and video clips posted on social media showed badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas.

Some footage showed local residents loading victims into a military helicopter.

offers of help

Even before the takeover of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were augmented to deal with the natural disasters that frequently hit the country.

But with only a handful of airplanes and helicopters, immediate response is often limited. “The government is acting within its capabilities,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official. “We hope that the international community and aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”

The United Nations and the European Union were quick to offer help. “Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to several affected areas,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted.

EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to affected people and communities.”

Afghanistan is frequently vulnerable to earthquakes – particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. Scores of people were killed and injured in two earthquakes that struck rural areas in the western province of Badghis in January, damaging hundreds of buildings.

In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck both countries, with a large number of deaths in Pakistan. Pope Francis from Vatican City prays for the victims of the latest earthquake.

“I express my closeness to the injured and those affected,” the 85-year-old pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience. The latest quake comes at a time when Afghanistan is grappling with a serious humanitarian disaster, made worse by the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Aid agencies and the United Nations say Afghanistan needs billions of dollars this year to deal with the crisis. Aid agencies have stressed the need for greater disaster preparedness, particularly in Afghanistan, which remains vulnerable to frequent earthquakes, floods and landslides.

According to responses posted on the USGS and European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) websites, the quake was felt as far as Lahore in Pakistan, 480 kilometers (300 mi) from the epicenter.

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