Up to 280 people According to the state-run Bakhtar news agency, dead and hundreds more are feared after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday.
The earthquake 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).
According to the USGS, which assigned the quake a yellow alert, the quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) – indicating a relatively localized impact.
According to Bakhtar, casualties were reported in Barmal, Zirok, Nika and Giyan districts of Paktika province, with more than 600 injured.
Local officials and residents have warned the death toll is likely to rise, according to Bakhar. Full casualty figures are not yet clear, and CNN is unable to independently confirm Bakhtar’s reporting.
Photos from Paktika province, south of Khost province, show destroyed houses with only a wall or two standing among the rubble and broken roof beams.
Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resources management expert, said the earthquake coincided with heavy monsoon rains in the region – leaving traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.
“The timing of the earthquake (in the) darkness of the night … and the shallow 10-kilometer depth of its epicenter resulted in higher casualties,” he added.
A Taliban deputy spokesman, Bilal Karimi, said the quake was “severe” and asked aid organizations to “urgently send teams” to the affected area.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams are on the ground for emergency response, including providing medicines, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered his condolences and support in a tweet on Wednesday. “I am deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake in Afghanistan which has resulted in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “The people of Pakistan share the grief and suffering of their Afghan brothers. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan at this time of need.”
This is an evolving story.