UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an event. File photo
"Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed and injured, and this tragic toll might continue to rise," he added on Wednesday in a statement.
"My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan who are already reeling from the impact of years of conflict, economic hardship and hunger. I convey my deep condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured," he said.
The United Nations in Afghanistan is fully mobilised, and UN teams are already on the ground assessing the needs and providing initial support, he added.
"We count on the international community to help support the hundreds of families hit by this latest disaster. Now is the time for solidarity," Guterres said.
An Afghan man sits near his house that was destroyed in an earthquake in Khost Province, Afghanistan. AP
Guterres' Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said later on Wednesday that the World Health Organisation and several non-governmental organisations are deploying mobile health teams, medicines and medical equipment to Afghanistan's Paktika and Khost provinces and mobilising additional medical supplies, Xinhua news agency reported.
The UN Children's Fund has deployed at least 12 teams of health workers to the worst-hit Giyan district in Paktika, and several mobile health and nutrition teams to Barmal district of Paktika, and Spera district in Khost. The World Food Programme, along with its humanitarian partners, is conducting a vulnerability assessment mission in the remote areas hit by the earthquake.
UN humanitarians said the Taliban are responding, including with search-and-rescue efforts. But heavy rain and wind are hampering efforts with helicopters reportedly unable to land on Wednesday afternoon, according to Haq.
Those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed are seeking shelter with family and friends, with some reportedly living in the open. The Taliban have delivered food and emergency tents to some of these families. But more assistance is required, he said.
Given the unseasonable heavy rains and cold, emergency shelter is an immediate priority. Other immediate needs include emergency trauma care, non-food items, food assistance and water and sanitation hygiene support, Haq added.
An earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, and the death toll has surpassed 1,000, with more than 1,500 people injured, news reports said.
Indo-Asian News Service