The powerful earthquake has killed at least 920 people and left hundreds more injured in Afghanistan.
Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said hundreds of houses were destroyed and the death toll was likely to rise. His deputy minister for disaster management Sharafuddin Muslim told a news conference at least 920 people had been killed and a further 600 injured, making it Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in two decades.
Pictures show landslides and ruined mud-built homes in eastern Paktika province, where rescuers have been scrambling to treat the injured.
Earlier, Abdul Wahid Rayan, the director general of the Bakthar news agency, said the areas hit by the earthquake were in mountainous regions, meaning rescue work was being attempted with helicopters. But he added: “Afghanistan has a shortage of helicopters and these areas being hard to access is making relief work difficult.”
In remote areas, helicopters have been ferrying victims to hospitals.
The quake struck early on Wednesday morning local time, its epicentre near the city of Khost, about 95 miles (150km) south of Kabul, the US Geological Survey reported.
Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesperson for the Taliban government, tweeted: “A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses. We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”
The Pakistan Meteorological Department said the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.1. Tremors were felt in Islamabad and elsewhere in Pakistan’s Punjab province.