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East Afghanistan earthquake kills at least 255

KABUL, Afghanistan – An earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing at least 255 people, authorities said.

Information remained scant about the magnitude 6 earthquake that hit Paktika province, but it comes as the international community has largely left Afghanistan after last year’s Taliban takeover of the country amid the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from its longest war in its history.

That will likely complicate any relief effort for this country of 38 million people.

The state-run Bakhtar news agency reported the death toll and said rescuers arrived by helicopter. The news agency’s director-general Abdul Wahid Rayan wrote on Twitter that 90 houses have been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people are trapped under the rubble.

Footage from Paktika province, near the Pakistani border, shows victims being transported in helicopters to be flown over from the area. Images widely circulating online from the county showed ruined stone houses, with residents picking through bricks and other debris.

Bakhtar posted footage of a resident receiving IV fluids from a plastic chair outside the rubble of his home and others sprawled on stretchers.

“A massive earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our compatriots and destroying dozens of homes,” Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, wrote separately on Twitter. “We urge all aid agencies to immediately dispatch teams to the area to prevent further disasters.”

The neighboring Pakistan Meteorological Department estimated the earthquake at a magnitude of 6.1. Quakes were felt in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and elsewhere in the eastern province of Punjab.

The European seismology agency, EMSC, said the quake’s tremors were felt over 500 kilometers (310 miles) by 119 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Associated Press writers Rahim Faeiz and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Jon Gambrell and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.