Afghanistan earthquake: Taliban appeals for aid as charities scramble to provide emergency relief

The scale of Afghanistan's worth earthquake in two decades is starting to be discovered, ITV News' Neil Connery reports

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government has appealed for more international aid as the country reels from a devastating 6.1 magnitude earthquake which killed at least 1,000 people and left another 1,500 injured.

The Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzadah, who almost never appears in public, has pleaded with humanitarian charities “to help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy and to spare no effort”.

Wednesday's earthquake struck areas already suffering the effects of heavy rain, leaving international organisations scrambling to provide emergency shelter and food aid to remote regions.

More than 3,000 houses were destroyed as a result of the earthquake, which struck near the city of Khost, around 100 miles southeast of the capital Kabul, in arid mountains near the border with Pakistan.

The district of Gayan suffered significant damage to buildings. Credit: AP

Most of the fatalities were reported to be in the province of Paktika, where the district of Gayan, close to the epicentre of the earthquake, suffered heavy damage to its buildings.

Rescue efforts have been hampered as communication networks were badly hit in the devastation.

"We can't reach the area, the networks are too weak, we are trying to get updates," Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in Paktika province, told Reuters.

People have been digging through rubble with their hands in the search for survivors, with photographs showing houses flattened to rubble and bodies swathed in blankets laying on the ground.

A health ministry spokesperson said around 1,000 people had been rescued by Thursday morning, but reiterated pleas for international relief, as the war-ravaged country - in the midst of an economic crisis - lacks sufficient resources.

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The deadliest earthquake to strike the country in two decades is a major challenge for the Taliban, who swept to power last summer following a rapid takeover of the country as US troops withdrew.

The Taliban's power grab meant many international aid organisations and some governments reduced their relief programmes in a country where around 80% of the budget was from foreign assistance.

However, the humanitarian agencies still operating in the country, including UNICEF, have rushed supplies to the earthquake-stricken areas.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society has already sent some thousands of blankets, and at least 800 tents and 800 kitchen kits to the affected areas. The Italian medical aid group Emergency, which still operates in Afghanistan, said it sent numerous ambulances to the areas closest to the quake zone.

A convoy of trucks carrying relief, including tents, blankets and emergency medicines for Afghanistan's earthquake hit areas. Credit: National Disaster Management Authority via AP.

Pakistan, meanwhile, said it would send food, tents, blankets and other essentials, while other countries, such as India, South Korea and Japan have also pledged their support.

Earthquakes tend to cause serious damage in Afghanistan, where there are large swathes of rural areas over which dwellings are unstable or poorly constructed.

The death toll from Wednesday's earthquake was equal to that of an earthquake that struck the northern part of the country in 2002. Those are the deadliest since 1998, when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan’s remote north-east region killed at least 4,500 people.