At least 920 people were killed and 600 others injured in a powerful earthquake that struck rural southeastern Afghanistan early on Wednesday, the deadliest quake in two decades, authorities said.
Officials have warned that the already grim death toll could rise.
Information on the 5.9-magnitude quake is still scant, but a quake of this magnitude is expected to wreak havoc in remote areas where homes and other structures are poorly constructed and landslides are common.
The quake comes as Afghanistan has been facing a severe humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by Western sanctions imposed on Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country last August.
Footage from Paktika shows people being lifted into helicopters and airlifted from the area. Others were treated on the ground. One resident can be seen sitting on a plastic chair outside the ruins of his home receiving IV fluids, while many more lie on gurneys. Some images showed residents picking up clay bricks and other rubble from destroyed stone houses.
Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to coordinate rescue efforts for victims of Paktika and Khost.
Houses were damaged near the Afghan border in some remote areas of Pakistan, but it was unclear whether it was due to rain or an earthquake, said the region’s disaster management spokesman, Taimur Khan.
The mountainous region of Afghanistan and the entire South Asian region along the Hindu Kush has long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes.
In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the northeast of the country killed more than 200 people in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. In 1998, at least 4,500 people were killed when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake and subsequent quakes struck the remote northeast of Afghanistan.