Islamabad - A powerful earthquake has killed nearly 300 people and injured hundreds of others in Afghanistan. Local Afghan officials and the state-run Bakthar news agency confirmed the casualties, saying most of the devastation occurred in southeastern Paktika and Khost provinces, which border Pakistan.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the magnitude 6.1 quake struck during the early hours of Wednesday about 44 kilometers from the provincial capital of Khost. Afghan officials in the border region said the death toll was likely to increase. Videos shared on social media showed flattened homes and rubble. The earthquake also rattled the capital, Kabul.
Taliban authorities said people were still under the rubble and rescue efforts, backed by helicopters, were underway. They also urged all aid organizations working in Afghanistan to help in the rescue operations. Ramiz Alakbarov, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, tweeted that his mission was "assessing the needs and responding in the aftermath of the earthquake last night which has taken hundreds of lives."
Tremors were reportedly felt across more than 500 kilometers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, according to the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre. Residents in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and the northwestern city, Peshawar, also felt the tremors but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Islamabad extended condolences and sympathies to Afghanistan over the devastation caused by the earthquake.
"Our authorities and institutions are working to extend required assistance to Afghanistan in coordination with their relevant institutions," said Pakistani foreign ministry statement.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.