Rescue workers are searching for survivors after an earthquake in a remote western region of Afghanistan killed at least 26 people and damaged hundreds of houses, officials said.
Monday’s magnitude 5.3 shallow quake jolted the province of Badghis and wrecked hundreds of homes, mostly in the rural Qadis district, which is not easily accessible by road.
“The earthquake caused massive damage to houses, about 700 to 1,000 have been damaged,” Badghis provincial spokesman Baz Mohammad Sarwary said in a video message.
“There is the possibility that the casualties could increase.”
Images circulating on social media showed residents, including children, searching through the rubble of collapsed homes for belongings and essential items.
Taliban government spokesman Inamullah Samangani said rescue workers were helping find survivors and transferring the wounded to local hospitals.
A Taliban team was in the area assisting in the relief work.
Some of the victims, including women and children, died when the roofs of their houses collapsed, officials said.
The quake also inflicted damage on the residents of Muqr district but details, including casualties, are still unavailable.
The epicentre of the quake was near Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis, less than 100km (62 miles) from the Turkmenistan border, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Afghanistan is already in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, worsened by Western countries freezing international aid and access to assets held abroad after the Taliban takeover of the country in August.
The United Nations has said it needs $5bn in 2022 to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan and offer the ravaged nation a future after 40 years of war and occupation.
A devastating drought has compounded the crisis, with earthquake-hit Qadis one of the worst-affected areas.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Even weak earthquakes can cause significant damage to poorly built homes and buildings in the impoverished country.
In 2015, nearly 280 people were killed when a powerful magnitude 7.5 earthquake ripped across South Asia, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.
In that disaster, 12 young Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their shaking school building.