Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan. AP
A powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said on Wednesday, with the toll expected to rise as rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.
The 6.1 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged terrain of the east, where people already live hardscrabble lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover in August.
The death toll has climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country's supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.
"So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured," Sharafuddin Muslim, the deputy minister for disaster management, told a press conference in the capital, Kabul.
That likely will complicate any relief efforts for this country of 38 million people.
The state-run Bakhtar news agency reported the death toll and said rescuers were arriving by helicopter. The news agency's director-general, Abdul Wahid Rayan, wrote on Twitter that 90 houses have been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people are believed trapped under the rubble.
Footage from Paktika province near the Pakistan border showed victims being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area. Images widely circulating online from the province showed destroyed stone houses, with residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble.
Bakhtar posted footage of a resident receiving IV fluids from a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and others sprawled on gurneys.
The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over August, as US-led international forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.