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SHARAN, (Afghanistan): A powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said Wednesday, with the toll expected to rise as desperate rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.

The 5.9-magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead hardscrabble lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by 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.

He said at least 1,500 people were injured, some critically.

“People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told journalists.

The death toll 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.

Pakistan offers assistance

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 the Paktika provincial capital of Sharan. “There were cries everywhere. The children and my family were under the mud.”

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