Afghanistan Live Updates: Rescuers Search for Survivors After Earthquake Kills 1,000, Officials Say

Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

Emergency aid began arriving on Thursday to areas affected by the deadliest earthquake to hit Afghanistan in decades, officials said, as rescue efforts continued to save survivors of the disaster that was estimated to have killed more than 1,000 people in a remote and mountainous part of the country’s southeast.

That toll was expected to rise, reflecting the poverty of the region, where some residents live in homes of clay and straw, and the difficult terrain, far from many clinics or hospitals that could help the wounded.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government said on Thursday that relief supplies — by air from Iran and Qatar and by land from Pakistan — had arrived in the country. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban government, said that eight truckloads of cargo from Pakistan had been delivered to the affected areas, and that further supplies had reached Kabul, the capital, and would soon be delivered to the quake zone.

The worst damage appeared to be in Paktika Province, along the border with Pakistan, although the center of the 5.9-magnitude earthquake was about 28 miles southwest of the city of Khost, in the country’s southeast, the United States Geological Survey said.

The director of information and culture in Paktika, Raees Hozaifa, said on Wednesday that an additional 1,500 people were injured. Shabir Ahmad Osmani, his counterpart in Khost Province, said 40 people had died and more than 100 were injured there. Thousands also have been displaced.

“Nearly all government and private hospitals are full of victims,” said Awal Khan Zadra, a doctor in Paktika’s Urgun district, adding that some of the wounded had been taken to the capital, Kabul.

The United Nations said that wind and rain had hampered rescue efforts by the Afghan Ministry of Defense on Wednesday, preventing helicopters from landing. The U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said that aid teams had arrived to help provide initial support.

Telephone and internet coverage is poor or nonexistent in some parts of the region, making it difficult to assess the damage and the immediate death toll. Ramiz Alakbarov, a deputy special representative for the United Nations, said nearly 2,000 homes were destroyed.

At a news conference on Wednesday, he said that some families who had lost their homes were now living exposed to the elements and that relief workers were especially concerned about preventing the spread of disease. He said the U.N. lacked the equipment needed to rescue people trapped under rubble and that Turkey was best positioned to help with its search-and-rescue capability.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was ready to provide “every kind of assistance.”

Mohammad Almas, the head of aid and appeals at Qamar, a charity active in the area, said that because the earthquake hit at night, most people were inside sleeping. More than 25 villages were almost destroyed, including when a landslide after the earthquake wiped one out, he said. In one village, he added, a home collapsed on 18 members of a family, leaving only one child alive.

A deputy Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, pleaded for assistance, writing on Twitter: “We call on the departments of all aid agencies to send their teams to the area immediately to prevent a further catastrophe.”

In March of 2002, at least 1,500 people were killed when a series of earthquakes with a magnitude between 5 and 6 struck northern Afghanistan, destroying a district capital in the Hindu Kush. A 1998 quake measuring 6.9 killed up to 4,000 people in the northern Takhar Province.