Sharan (Afghanistan): The death toll from the powerful earthquake that struck a rural, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border on early June 22, has crossed 1,000 with 1500 more injured, authorities said on Thursday.
The toll climbed steadily Wednesday 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.
Houses were reduced to rubble and bodies swathed in blankets lay on the ground after the magnitude 6.1 earthquake, photographs on Afghan media showed.
The quake has struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead hardscrabble lives amid a humanitarian crisis made worse since the Taliban takeover in August.
"People are digging grave after grave," said Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in hard-hit Paktika, adding that at least 1,000 people had died in that province alone.
"People are still trapped under the rubble," he told journalists.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the global agency has "fully mobilised" to help, deploying health teams and supplies of medicine, food, trauma kits and emergency shelter to the quake zone.
The earthquake struck areas that were already suffering the effects of heavy rain, causing rockfalls and mudslides that hampered rescue efforts.
"It was a horrible situation," said Arup Khan, 22, recovering at a hospital in Paktika's provincial capital Sharan.
"There were cries everywhere. The children and my family were under the mud."
Sharan Hospital director Mohammad Yahya Wiar said they were doing their best to treat everyone.
"Our country is poor and lacks resources," he told AFP. "This is a humanitarian crisis. It is like a tsunami."
Photographs and videos posted on social media showed scores of badly damaged houses in remote areas. The UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, told reporters nearly 2,000 homes are likely destroyed.
Footage released by the Taliban showed people in one village digging a long trench to bury the dead, who by Islamic tradition must be laid to rest facing Mecca.
The disaster poses a huge challenge for the Taliban, who have largely isolated the country with their hardline Islamist policies -- particularly the subjugation of women and girls.
Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan's emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently strike the country.