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An Afghan Interior Ministry official says at least 255 people were killed when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan’s southeastern Paktita province on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday.

At least 255 people were killed in a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that struck southeastern Afghanistan overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to an Afghan interior ministry official quoted by Reuters.

The deputy government spokesman, Bilal Karimi, joined by AFP, indicated for his part that the provisional toll of the earthquake exceeded 100 dead in the province of Paktita.

“More than 100 people were killed in the earthquake,” he said, adding that many houses had been destroyed and people were trapped inside.

“We call on aid agencies to provide immediate assistance to the victims of the earthquake in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” he also tweeted.

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The quake struck at a depth of 10 km around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday (2100 GMT), very close to the border with Pakistan, according to the American Seismological Institute (USGS).

A second quake of magnitude 4.5 hit almost the same place at the same time, according to the USGS.

According to Yaqub Manzor, a tribal leader from Paktika, many of the injured came from Giyan district in the province and were taken to hospital by ambulances and helicopters.

“Local markets are closed and people have rushed (to help) to the affected areas,” he told AFP by phone.

Frequent earthquakes

Photos posted on social media showed collapsed houses in the streets of a village.

Videos also showed residents of the affected areas loading injured people into a helicopter.

The earthquake was felt in several provinces of the region, and also in the capital Kabul, located about 200 km north of the epicenter of the earthquake.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range which lies at the junction between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

These disasters can be particularly devastating due to the weak resilience of rural Afghan homes.

In October 2015, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.5 hit the Hindu Kush range, straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing more than 380 people in these two countries.

Among the Afghan victims were 12 young girls, trampled in a panic as they tried to get out of their tottering school.

Since the Taliban came to power in Kabul last August, Afghanistan has been plunged into a serious financial and humanitarian crisis, caused by the freezing of billions of dollars of assets held abroad and the sudden halt international aid which has carried the country at arm’s length for 20 years, and which is now coming back in dribs and drabs.

With AFP and Reuters

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