(CNN) — The death toll from the earthquake in Afghanistan continues to rise and so far more than 1,000 people have been confirmed dead in the eastern province of Afghanistan on Tuesday.
“More than 1,000 people were killed and more than 1,500 injured in Tuesday night’s earthquake in Gayan and Barmal district of Paktika province alone,” said Mohammad Amin Hozaifa, head of the province’s Department of Information and Culture. of Paktika, told CNN in a phone call on Wednesday.
Hozaifa added that the death toll is likely to rise as search and effort missions continue.
It is the deadliest earthquake to hit the Asian nation in decades.
The quake struck at 1:24 a.m. about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which is near the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). for its acronym in English).
The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the USGS, which assigned the quake a yellow alert level, indicating a relatively localized impact.
The death toll is over 900 and at least 600 people were injured in the quake, Deputy Minister of the State Ministry for Disaster Management Sharafuddin Muslem said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths occurred in Paktika province, in Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok districts, according to the ministry.
In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several more injured, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management authority said.
Photos from Paktika province, just south of Khost province, show destroyed houses with only one or two walls left standing amid the rubble and broken roof beams.
Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resource management expert, said the quake coincided with heavy monsoon rains in the region, making traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.
“The moment of the earthquake, in the dark of the night … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers from its epicenter caused a greater number of victims,” he added.
A team of doctors and seven helicopters were dispatched to the area to transport the wounded to nearby hospitals, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The Taliban held an emergency meeting to organize transport for the wounded and material aid for the victims and their families, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.
Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called the meeting at the country’s presidential palace to instruct all relevant agencies to send emergency relief teams to the affected area, Mujahid said in a tweet.
“Measures were also taken to provide cash assistance and treatment,” Mujahid said, adding that the agencies were “instructed to use air and ground transportation for the delivery of food, clothing, medicine and other necessities and for the transportation of the wounded.” “.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams were on the ground responding to emergencies, including providing medicine, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his condolences and made an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday.
“Deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake in Afghanistan, which resulted in the loss of innocent life,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the pain and sadness of their Afghan brothers. The relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in its time of need.”
India expressed “sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families,” according to a tweet from India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday.
Pope Francis, during his weekly audience on Wednesday, said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and for their families.”
“I hope that help can be sent there to relieve all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”
The earthquake comes as the country is in the midst of a food crisis. Nearly half the population, 20 million people, are suffering from acute hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report in May.
It is a situation aggravated by the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021, which led the United States and its allies to freeze around $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut off international financing.
The move crippled an economy already heavily dependent on aid.
CNN’s Hada Messia contributed to this report.