Afghan quake kills at least 1,000, toll expected to rise

The death toll from Wednesday's earthquake in Afghanistan has surpassed 1,000. Casualties are expected to increase as an unknown number of people remain trapped under collapsed buildings.

The magnitude 5.9 earthquake occurred in the eastern province of Khost early Wednesday.

Authorities in neighboring Paktika Province told NHK that an estimated 1,500 others were injured.

A resident said, "The earthquake hit around 2:00 in the morning. It was too dangerous. We left home. A lot of people were injured."

Speaking to reporters, a UN aid official to Afghanistan said at least 2,000 homes were destroyed in the region, where households typically have seven or eight occupants.

Rescue workers rushed to remove people trapped under the rubble of homes mainly made from clay bricks.

The Taliban's supreme leader pleaded with the international community to help the Afghan people.

Meanwhile, a senior UN official said rescue efforts are difficult as the area is remote and access is limited.

Loretta Hieber Girardet of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said, "The roads are poor, even in the best of times. So, having a humanitarian operation put in place is going to be immediately challenged by the lack of easy access to the area, to the region, and I think that is going to be probably one of the big challenges."

UN officials said heavy rains were hampering rescue operations by helicopters and landslides were also a concern.

Major earthquakes have hit Afghanistan in the past, including one in 2015 that killed around 300 Afghans and Pakistanis.