According to official figures, at least 920 people died in a devastating earthquake in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. At least 600 residents in eastern Afghanistan were injured after the quake late Tuesday night, Taliban Deputy State Minister for Disaster Management Maulawi Sharafuddin Muslim said on Wednesday.

An eyewitness reported the destruction in the affected areas to the German Press Agency. “There is great chaos everywhere. I counted a hundred bodies in an hour,” said journalist Rahim Chan Chushal. “The horror is great. Parents cannot find their children and children cannot find their parents. Everyone wonders who is dead and who is alive. The houses are made of mud and that is why they were all destroyed by the strong earthquake.”

The Taliban leadership expressed its sympathy and condolences to the victims. According to government sources, dozens of houses in Paktika and Khost provinces were destroyed. Many animals also died. Afghan media reported that one village had been completely destroyed. The construction in the poor and economically weak region is not earthquake-proof for cost reasons, many families live close together. In addition, the earthquake is likely to have surprised the residents at night.

Meanwhile, civil protection fears an even higher number of victims. The rescue work was made more difficult by the access to the remote mountain region. The militant Islamist Taliban, who have ruled Afghanistan again since August 2021, called an emergency cabinet meeting. Several helicopters were sent to the disaster area to help local people. A government spokesman called on aid organizations for support. Helpers from the Red Crescent arrived on Wednesday.

The US earthquake monitoring station (USGS) reported the magnitude of the quake shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday (local time) as 5.9 and a slightly weaker aftershock. Accordingly, the center of the earthquake was around 50 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost near the border with Pakistan at a depth of around ten kilometers. Pakistani authorities registered the earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1.

According to Pakistani information, the tremors were felt in large parts of the neighboring country – including in the capital Islamabad and even in Lahore in the east of the country. Panic broke out in some places, but according to initial information, nothing was known about damage or injuries in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his dismay on the Internet and promised help for the people in the neighboring country.

Pope Francis prayed for the victims in Rome. “I express my closeness to the injured and those affected by the earthquake,” said the head of the Catholic Church on Wednesday at the end of the general audience in front of believers and visitors in St. Peter’s Square. The 85-year-old said he prayed especially for those who lost their lives and for their families.

Again and again there are severe earthquakes in the Hindu Kush region and the neighboring countries, where the Arabian, Indian and Eurasian plates meet. In 1998 an earthquake shook northern Afghanistan, killing several thousand people.