According to the AP, the new balance sheet was published by the Afghan state news agency Báchtar. Another 1,500 people were injured.
The eastern Afghan province of Paktika and the adjacent province of Khost have the most confirmed victims. “The balance is likely to grow further, as some of the affected villages are in remote mountainous areas and it will take some time before we have detailed information from there,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Salahuddin Ayubi.
Authorities have launched a rescue operation involving helicopters to transport injuries from inaccessible locations to hospitals and to bring medical care and food to the affected areas.
“A strong earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing or injuring hundreds of our citizens and destroying dozens of homes,” a Taliban spokesman for the Islamist movement said on Twitter. It took control of Afghanistan last summer during the departure of the last US troops, after which the international community turned away from the country, which is now likely to complicate rescue and humanitarian operations, according to the AP.
The USGS originally reported that the magnitude of the earthquake reached 6.1 degrees, later adjusting the figure to 5.9 degrees. “In most parts of the world, earthquakes of this magnitude would not cause such extensive destruction,” said USGS seismologist Robert Sanders.
“But because this is a mountainous area, there is a risk of landslides and stones. In addition, older buildings easily disintegrate and collapse, “he added.
The fact that the earthquake was based on updated information from the USGS at a depth of only ten kilometers may have contributed to the large number of victims, the AP agency wrote. The epicenter was located in eastern Afghanistan, 44 kilometers from the city of Khost near the border with Pakistan.
The quake was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India within a radius of about 500 kilometers, the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said on twitter.
According to testimonies published on the EMSC website and according to Twitter users, the tremors were also evident in the Afghan capital Kabul or in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. The Pakistani authorities did not disclose information about the damage or casualties in the first hours after the earthquake.
“Strong and long shocks,” one of Kabul’s witnesses wrote on the EMSC website. “It was strong,” said another witness from Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan.
In northern Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, earthquakes are common, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, where tectonic plates – Eurasian and Indian – meet. Damage and loss of life there are high due to the instability of buildings. In October 2015, a 7.5-degree earthquake struck northeast Afghanistan and north Pakistan, claiming nearly 400 deaths.
Location of the province of Paktika.