The death toll from the magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Afghanistan on Wednesday hit 1,000, accodrding to disaster management officials, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.
The earthquake hit around 1:24 a.m. local time, while most people were still asleep inside their homes. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake's epicenter was 46 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost, which is close to Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
The USGS said the earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers, and it was given a yellow warning rating, meaning that it had a rather confined effect. A report from Bakhtar claimed that there were recorded fatalities and injuries in the Paktika province's Barmal, Zirok, Nika, and Giyan districts.
The report said that local leaders had issued warnings that the death toll is likely to increase throughout the region as rescue workers sift through the rubble. Dozens of buildings and homes were reportedly destroyed throughout the Paktika Province, and hundreds are feared to be still trapped under the destroyed structures. The figures reported by Bakhtar have not been confirmed, and media outlets have not yet been able to independently verify the claims.
Experts said the earthquake had struck as much of the region was still contending with heavy monsoon rain. Traditional houses, which are made of mud and other materials, became particularly vulnerable to the tremors, resulting in major damage.
Afghan water resource management expert, Najibullah Sadid, said the timing of the earthquake, its relatively shallow depth, and the monsoon had led to higher casualties. Bilal Karimi, a deputy Taliban spokesperson, called the earthquake "severe" and urged relief organizations to urgently dispatch teams to the afflicted area.
The World Health Organization stated in a tweet on Wednesday that some of its personnel were on the ground for emergency response. This included teams assigned to provide medical aid, trauma care, and special teams performing needs assessments.
Shehbaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, tweeted on Wednesday expressing his sympathy to the families of the victims while also committing to provide assistance. He added that he was very saddened to read about the earthquake in Afghanistan, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives.
Sharif said authorities are already working with their Afghanistan counterparts to assist victims in this time of need. He added that people in Pakistan feel the sadness and sorrow of their Afghan compatriots.