A 6.1 magnitude earthquake has struck south-east Afghanistan killing at least 255 people, according to the country’s official news agency.
The quake struck early on Wednesday morning local time with its epicentre near the town of Khost south of the capital, Kabul, the US Geological Survey reported.
At least 255 people were killed and 155 others injured in the Barmala, Ziruk, Naka and Gayan districts of Paktika province, Afghanistan’s Bakhtar news agency said on Wednesday morning. Rescue teams were being helicoptered into the stricken areas.
“Strong and long jolts” were felt in Kabul 200km away, according to a resident who posted on the website of the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).
Photographs on Afghan media and scoial media showed houses reduced to rubble.
Deaths were also reported in the eastern provinces of Khost and Nangarhar, said Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, the head of the Taliban administration’s disaster management authority.
Bakhtar said local officials feared the death toll could rise if the central government did not provide emergency help.
“A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,” Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesperson for the Taliban government, wrote on Twitter. “We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”
The meteorological department in neighbouring Pakistan put the earthquake at a magnitude 6.1. Tremors were felt in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the eastern Punjab province.
The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre also said that shaking was felt in Pakistan to the east of the quake’s epicentre.