At least 1,000 people were killed and several hundred injured in a massive earthquake that struck an isolated border area in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, according to authorities, who fear the toll will continue to rise.

"People dig and excavate graves"said the head of Information and Culture of Paktika province, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, in a message to the press.

In his province, the most affected along with Khost, the balance "reached 1,000 dead and the figures increase", said. At least 600 wounded are added to the deceased.

"It is raining and the houses are destroyed. There is no shelter or food. There are people still trapped in the rubble (…) We need help immediately"said.

The earthquake of magnitude 5.9 It took place in a remote area in the east, near the border with Pakistan, where the population already lives in very precarious conditions.

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 km, around 0130 on Wednesday, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which added that a second tremor of magnitude 4.5 shook almost the same place.

According to Yaqub Manzor, a Paktika tribal official, many of the wounded came from Giyan district in the province and were transported by ambulances and helicopters.

"Local markets are closed and people rushed (to help) to the affected areas"he told AFP by phone.

Photos of collapsed houses are seen on social networks in the streets of a village, in this poor and remote rural region. And in a video you can see residents transporting the wounded to a helicopter.

"Much of the region is mountainous and getting around is difficult. It will take time to evacuate the dead and wounded"explained the Minister of Natural Disasters, Mohamad Abas Akhund.

– International aid –

The country’s rescue services, long limited in numbers and capacity, are ill-adapted to deal with natural disasters of this magnitude.

"The government does the best within its capabilities"tweeted Anas Haqqani, another senior Taliban official.

"We hope that the international community and humanitarian organizations will also help people in this terrible situation."he added.

The earthquake was felt in several provinces in the region, and also in the capital, Kabul, located about 200 km north of the epicenter of the earthquake.

It was also felt in neighboring Pakistan, where one person was killed and several homes were damaged.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was "deeply saddened" for this tragedy and assured that the country’s authorities were working to provide their support to their Afghan counterparts.

The UN announced an immediate mobilization to help in the rescue and assistance tasks. "Agency assessment teams are already deployed to several affected areas"reported the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a tweet in Afghan.

For his part, the EU’s envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, stated that the bloc "is willing to coordinate and supply emergency aid".

From Rome, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the victims of the earthquake and said he hoped that "with everyone’s help, the suffering of the beloved Afghan people can be alleviated".

– Frequent earthquakes –

Afghanistan frequently suffers from earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush massif, straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is located at the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

These catastrophes can be especially devastating due to the poor resistance of Afghan rural houses.

In October 2015, a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake shook the Hindu Kush mountains, killing at least 380 people in the two countries.

Since the Taliban came to power in August, Afghanistan has been going through a serious financial and humanitarian crisis, caused by the blockade of millions of assets abroad and the suspension of international aid, which had sustained the country for two decades and which now It arrives with dropper.

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