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An earthquake in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 1,000 people and injured 1,500 others Wednesday morning, according to local authorities, although details of the incident remain limited.
Officials said the death toll is expected to rise even further as the earthquake has become the deadliest temblor in two decades.
The 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Paktika province of the country, just 10 months after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal and the departure of most of the international community from the region following last summer’s Taliban takeover, which complicates efforts to offer relief to the nation’s 38 million people.
The death toll was given by Afghan emergency official Sharafuddin Muslim. Wednesday’s earthquake was the deadliest since 2002, when a 6.1 magnitude temblor killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan immediately following the U.S.-led efforts to overthrew the Taliban government following the 9/11 attacks.
State media reported earlier in the morning that rescuers were arriving to the providence on helicopters. It was also reported that the earthquake destroyed hundreds of houses in Paktika and that dozens of people were said to be trapped under the debris. Buildings were also damaged in Khost province.
Video showed victims of the incident being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the region. Photos circulating online from the area revealed demolished stone houses, and residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble.
“A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,” Taliban government deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi wrote on Twitter. “We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”
Afghan Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to coordinate the relief effort for victims in Paktika and Khost.
U.N. resident coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, wrote on Twitter that the “response is on its way.”
Neighboring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department reported a 6.1 magnitude earthquake. Tremors could be felt in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, and elsewhere in the eastern Punjab province.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said in a statement that his country will provide assistance to the Afghan people.
Taimoor Khan, a disaster management spokesperson in the area, said some remote areas of Pakistan endured damage to homes near the border of Afghanistan, but it was not made immediately clear whether that was a result of rain or the earthquake.
According to the European seismological agency EMSC, the earthquake’s tremors were felt over 310 miles by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.