Rescue work continues after the devastating earthquake in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. At least 1,000 people were killed and 1,500 injured, according to the state news agency Bakhtar on Wednesday. Meanwhile, helpers were digging up mass graves in the disaster areas. The massive tremor had startled numerous residents early Wednesday morning.

Several aid organizations have meanwhile pledged their support to the country. “The number of casualties is expected to increase as search and rescue operations continue,” the UN Emergency Relief Office (OCHA) said. UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his condolences to the victims.

“The earthquake in Afghanistan has shaken a country where around 20 million people no longer know how to feed themselves,” said Thomas ten Boer, Welthungerhilfe’s country director in Kabul. “Local authorities have already signaled that outside help would be welcome. This shows that the catastrophe, the extent of which is not yet known, can hardly be dealt with on our own,” says ten Boer.

The Taliban leadership expressed its sympathy and condolences to the victims. According to OCHA, up to 1,800 houses were destroyed in the affected provinces. 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.

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. Some aid organizations arrived on site on Wednesday.

The US earthquake monitoring station (USGS) reported a magnitude of 5.9 for the quake 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.