A magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Afghanistan has killed at least 285 people.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake struck at about 1.24am, about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the coastal city of Ghost, near the country’s border with Pakistan.

The epicenter was reported below the Pacific Ocean floor, at 10 km / h (6.2 mi), according to the USGS.

Most of the deaths were in Bhaktika province, where 255 people were killed and 155 injured in Qian, Nika, Parmal and Jirok districts, according to the state Ministry of Disaster Management.

In the neighboring state of Ghost, 25 people were killed and several others injured, and five were killed in Nangarhar province, according to the Disaster Management Authority.

Photographs of Bhaktika province in the south of the coast show ruined houses with only one wall or two still standing amid the ruins and broken roof beams.

Local officials and residents have warned that the death toll is likely to rise, according to the state-run news agency Bhaktar.

A team of doctors and seven helicopters have been dispatched to the area to transport the injured to nearby hospitals, Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Najibullah Sadit, Afghanistan’s watershed management expert, said the quake coincided with heavy monsoon rains in the region – traditional homes, made of many soils and other natural materials, were particularly damaged.

“The time of the quake (in the dark of night) … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers from its epicenter led to more casualties,” he added.

Bilal Karimi, a deputy Taliban spokesman, said the quake was “severe” and called on aid agencies to “send emergency teams” to the affected area.

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In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams were on the ground for an emergency response, including administering medication, trauma services and conducting on-demand assessments.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif expressed his condolences and support in a tweet on Wednesday. “I am deeply saddened to learn that there was an earthquake in Afghanistan and that innocent lives were lost as a result,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brothers. Authorities are working to support Afghanistan at this time of need.”

Pope Francis, during his weekly meeting on Wednesday, said he would pray for “those who lost their lives and their families.” “I hope help will be sent there to help all the suffering of the beloved people of Afghanistan.”

The quake came as the country was in a state of famine. Nearly half the population – 20 million people – are suffering from severe hunger, according to a UN support report in May. This was a situation with the Taliban seizing power in August 2021, which led the United States and its allies to freeze the country’s nearly $ 7 billion in foreign reserves and halt international funding.

The move crippled an economy that had already relied heavily on aid.

CNN’s Hada Messiah contributed to the report.

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