The humanitarian catastrophe comes at a difficult time for the Taliban-ruled country, which is currently suffering from famine and an economic crisis.
The aftershocks occurred at 1:24 am. local time on Wednesday (4:54 pm ET Tuesday) about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which is close to the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) .
The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), indicating a yellow hazard level, indicating a relatively localized impact, according to the US Geological Survey.
According to the State Ministry of Disaster Management, most of the deaths occurred in the province of Paktika, in the districts of Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok.
The death toll stands at more than 1,000 and at least 1,500 people were injured “only in the Gayan and Barmal districts of Paktika province,” Mohammad Amin Hozaifa, head of the Paktika information and cultural department, told CNN by telephone on Wednesday.
The official expects the death toll to rise as the search continues.
In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several were injured, while five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management agency said.
Photographs from Paktika Province, south of Khost Province, show houses that have been reduced to rubble, with only one or two walls and broken roof beams remaining.
Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water management expert, said the quake coincided with heavy monsoonal rain in the region, leaving traditional homes, many of them built from mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.
“The timing of the earthquake (in) the dark night … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers from its epicenter led to great casualties,” he added.
A medical team and seven helicopters were sent to the area to transport the wounded to nearby hospitals, the Afghan Defense Ministry said on Twitter on Wednesday.
The situation wreaked havoc on an economy that was already heavily dependent on aid. After the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year, its economy went into free fall, with the World Bank forecasting in April that “a combination of declining incomes and rising prices has led to a serious deterioration in household living standards.”
Taliban hold emergency meeting on Wednesday to organize the transportation of the wounded and material assistance to the victims and their families, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.
Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called a meeting at the country’s presidential palace to instruct all relevant departments to send emergency teams to the affected area, Mujahid said in a tweet.
“Measures have also been taken to provide monetary assistance and medical treatment,” Mujahid said, adding that the departments “have been instructed to use air and land transport to deliver food, clothing, medicine and other essentials, as well as to transport the wounded.”
Afghan Deputy Minister of State for Disaster Management Mavlawi Sharafuddin Muslim said on Wednesday that “the Islamic Emirate will pay 100,000 Afghan francs ($1,116.19) to the families of those killed in the earthquake and 50,000 ($558.10) to those injured.”
The government also stressed the need for foreign aid.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for the generous support of all countries, international organizations, individuals and foundations for the provision and delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance,” the country’s diplomatic missions said in a press statement.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a tweet that its teams are on the ground to respond to emergencies, including providing medicines, trauma services and needs assessments.
But a WHO official told CNN’s Eleni Gioko that the logistics had been stretched out. “All resources have been mobilized not only from the surrounding provinces, but also from Kabul, including medicines, medics, nurses, medical workers, ambulances and emergency personnel who are trained to deal with such situations,” said Alaa Abuzeid, the team on emergency situations. host and incident manager at the WHO Afghanistan office.
“The situation is still evolving and we are allocating more resources as needed,” he said. “Resources here are exhausted, not only for this region, but we expect the situation to change in the coming hours.”
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), heavy rain and wind “hamper efforts as helicopters are reportedly unable to land this afternoon.”
“Identified immediate needs include emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food aid and WASH. [water, sanitation and hygiene] support,” UNOCHA said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered his condolences and offered support in a tweet on Wednesday. “Deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake in Afghanistan that killed innocent people,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and grief of their Afghan brothers. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan at this difficult time.”
India expressed “sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families,” an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Pope Francis said he is praying “for those who have lost their lives and for their families” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope that aid can be sent there to help all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan has a long history of earthquakes, many of which occur in the mountainous region of the Hindu Kush that borders Pakistan.
CNN’s Hada Messiah, Adam Pourahmadi, Aliza Kassy and Martin Goilando contributed to this report.