Earthquake in Afghanistan: At least 285 people are feared dead after the quake with a magnitude of 5.9

The quake affected at 01.24 about 46 kilometers 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), according to the USGS, which gave the quake a yellow warning level – indicating a relatively local impact.

Most of the deaths were in Paktika province, where 255 people were killed and 155 others were injured in the districts of Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok, according to the State Department of Disaster Management.

In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several others were injured, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management authority said.

Pictures from Paktika province, just south of Khost province, show destroyed houses with only a wall or two still standing among the ruins, and broken roof beams.

Local officials and residents have warned that the death toll is likely to rise, according to the state news agency Bakhtar.

A team of medics and seven helicopters have been sent to the area to transport injured people to nearby hospitals, Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resources management expert, said the quake had coincided with heavy monsoon rains in the region – making traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.

“The time of the earthquake (i) darkness at night … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers of its epicenter led to more damage,” he added.

A Taliban deputy leader, Bilal Karimi, said the quake had been “severe” and asked aid agencies to “send teams immediately” to the affected area.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said their teams were on the ground for emergency relief, including providing medicine, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended his condolences and an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday. “Deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake in Afghanistan, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brothers. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in this time of need.”

Pope Francis said he prayed “for those who have lost their lives and for their families” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope aid can be sent there to help all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”

The earthquake comes while the country is in a famine crisis. Nearly half of the population – 20 million people – experience acute hunger, according to a UN-backed report in May. This is a situation exacerbated by the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021, which led the United States and its allies to freeze around $ 7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut international funding.

The move paralyzed an economy that is already heavily dependent on aid.

CNN’s Hada Messia contributed to this report.