Afghanistan earthquake death toll soars to 920: official report

N: The death toll of the powerful Afghanistan earthquake of a magnitude of 6.1 soared to 920 casualties and with the number of injured variously reported between 600 and as high as 1,500.

The official numbers as provided by Afghanistan's Deputy Minister for Disaster Management, Mawlawi Sharafuddin, speak of 920 dead and 620 injured.

Earlier reports from the local Bakhtar News Agency spoke of 280 dead and 600 injured, but the agency is now reporting 1,000 dead and 1,500 injured.

“The number of fatalities is likely to increase because some villages are located in distant mountainous regions. Collecting detailed data will take time,” a representative of the Afghan Interior Ministry Salahuddin Ayubi said.

It was 44 km from the south-eastern city of Khost that the epicentre of the quake appeared at 01:30 local time (21:00 Tuesday GMT), BBC reported, adding that hosts of people were caught off-guard while at their homes and asleep in beds.

Rescuers rushed to the rescue to treat the injured. Helicopters have been deployed to bring victims from remote areas to hospitals.

As many as 119 mln people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India felt the tremor, the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said. No immediate reports of casualties in the neighbouring Pakistan have been made available but according to BBC Urdu the quake did little damage in the country.

However, the landscape of the eastern Afghan province of Paktitka was darkened by images of landslides and ruined mud-built homes. The head of the Bakhtar Press Agency Abdul Wahid Rayan reported in a tweet that 90 homes were destroyed and that several dozen people were trapped under the rubble. It is in the Gayan and Barmal districts in Paktika that the has hitherto seen the largest number of casualties, a local doctor told the BBC. As put by local media site Etilaat-e Roz, a whole village in Gayan had been destroyed.

“Unfortunately, last night there was a severe earthquake in four districts of Paktika province, which killed and injured hundreds of our countrymen and destroyed dozens of houses,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi tweeted. “We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that in the past 10 years, more than 7,000 people had been killed in earthquakes in Pakistan. There are an average of 560 deaths a year from earthquakes in the country strongly conditioned by tectonic activity.