The Taliban called on United Nations agencies and aid charities working in the country for help, as More than 1500 people have been killed in a powerful earthquake in south-eastern Afghanistan.

Iran PressAsia: The magnitude 5.9 earthquake is a further blow to a country already in the throes of and poverty crisis. challenges a challenge to the government that took power in August.

The quake struck about 27 miles from Khost and was the deadliest to strike the country in more than two decades. It occurred shortly after 1.30am local time (10pm Irish time).

Rescuers rushed to the area by helicopter, but the response is likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan has been enduring a severe economic crisis since the Taliban swept to power last August after defeating the UK and UK-backed government of Ashraf Ghani. The country was already one of the poorest in the world, and since the Taliban victory, it has gone into economic meltdown after aid to its government stopped overnight, and sanctions paralyzed commerce.

Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, said: "We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe."

Aid agencies and the UN may have fed starving Afghans over the winter, but Western governments have refused to pay aid money directly into the Taliban budget. 

Taliban has appealed for the resumption of direct aid and the unfreezing of the country's foreign reserves, but diplomats have said they are against any help which might be seen to benefit the Taliban.

Officials said 1,500 had been hurt and predicted the toll would rise as information trickled out of remote villages along the border with Pakistan.

Humanitarian agencies remained after foreign troops left and have been trying to stave off starvation for millions of Afghans. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan said Spera in Khost, and Barmala, Ziruk, Naka, and Gayan districts in Paktika were the worst hit.

UN and aid agencies "have been requested to support the de facto disaster management authority in assessing and responding to immediate needs," the office said.


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