Afghanistan earthquake: Pope Francis offers prayers as nearly 1000 killed
- Hundreds of citizens were also injured as the powerful quake struck
- The epicenter was at 27 miles from the south-eastern city of Khost
- Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said the death toll was likely to rise
Pope Francis offered prayers Wednesday for the victims of a deadly earthquake in Afghanistan that has so far claimed nearly 1,000 lives.
Hundreds of citizens were also injured as the powerful quake struck about 27 miles from the south-eastern city of Khost at a time when many people were at home, asleep in their beds.
“I express my closeness with the injured and those who were affected by the earthquake,” the 85-year-old pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican.
“And I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and their families,” the head of the global Catholic Church said.
“I hope that with everyone’s help, the suffering of the dear Afghan people can be alleviated.”
Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said that hundreds of houses were destroyed and the death toll was likely to rise.
“So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured,” Mawlawi Sharafuddin Muslim, deputy minister of disaster management, told a news conference on Wednesday.
Aid agencies had rushed to the affected areas in the nation's east to help those stuck under the rubble.
“Authorities have sent helicopters and are calling for aid agencies to come in and rescue people from the rubble. But it’s a remote area and harder to reach,” Afghan journalist Ali M Latifi, reporting from Kabul, told Al Jazeera.
“The international rescue committee said they have deployed a local medical team to try and respond to the disaster.
“The biggest issue is how to reach the sites because they are further away from the provincial capitals, and the road conditions could be difficult. So really the issue is how long it’s going to take them to get there,” the Afghan journalist said.
Tremors were felt across more than 500km of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Several witnesses reported feeling the quake in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, as well as Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.
The earthquake was magnitude 6.1 at a depth of some 51km, according to seismologists.
Footage from several provinces showed victims being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area. Other images shared online showed destroyed homes.