Photos: Afghan authorities scramble to reach earthquake zone

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Photos: Afghan authorities scramble to reach earthquake zone

Afghan authorities struggled on Thursday to reach a remote area hit by an earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people but poor communications and a lack of proper roads hampered their efforts, officials have said.

The magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck early on Wednesday about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we trying to get updates,” Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika province, told Reuters news agency, referring to telephone networks.

The earthquake killed some 1,000 people and injured more than 1,500, he said. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed.

About 600 people had been rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night, he said.

The town of Gayan, close to the epicentre, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed, Reuters reported.

The town was bustling with Taliban soldiers and ambulances as a helicopter bringing in relief supplies landed nearby, whipping up huge swirls of dust. About 300 people sat on the ground waiting for supplies.

The rescue operation will be a major test for the Taliban authorities, who took over the country last August after two decades of war and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions.

The Taliban-led ministry of defence is leading rescue efforts.