A 7.5-magnitude earthquake with a depth of 210 km hit the Hindu Kush mountain range in northern Afghanistan at 0909 GMT on Monday, with strong tremors also felt in Pakistan and India. The death toll from the quake rose to 350, with thousands of people wounded, and the rescue and relief operations were in full swing.
China, whose northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, also felt the tremors, has offered disaster relief assistance to quake-hit Afghanistan and Pakistan based on their needs.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent messages of condolences to his counterparts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Chinese leader pledged to provide the two countries with assistance if needed, expressing the belief that the two countries can overcome the disaster and rebuild their homelands.
France was shocked by the heavy death toll from the major earthquake, and “extends its condolences to the victims’ families. It reaffirms its solidarity with the Afghan, Pakistani and Indian people,” the French foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
French embassies in the region would continue to closely monitor developments in the situation, it added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday voiced concern on the increasing health needs after the massive earthquake.
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva that some 866,000 people live in a circle of around 100 km around the epicenter of the quake.
The hardest-hit areas were those also most affected by militant violence, including an intense Taliban offensive that lasted for weeks in the remote parts of the north.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Tuesday that children in earthquake-hit areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan are facing “further deadly threats as extreme conditions and insecurity cut off communities from aid.”
Heavy rain and snow have been pounding the remote, mountainous areas affected by the quake over the past two days, it said, adding that communication is poor and access difficult due to the tough terrain and security operations.
“UNICEF in Afghanistan and Pakistan are working with the national governments and are prepared to deliver life-saving supplies to tens of thousands of affected children and their families,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at Tuesday’s briefing.
The United Nations said on Monday that it stands ready to support Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“United Nations agencies are mobilizing and stand ready to support government-led relief operations in both countries, if requested,” said a statement released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson.
Ban also sent his condolences to the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
“The U.S. government has been in touch with the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan and we stand ready to provide any additional support that may be needed,” U.S. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told a daily press briefing.
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has offered assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Russia’s Sputnik News Agency reported on Monday.
“The head of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, Vladimir Puchkov, has sent an official letter to the acting Afghan Minister of Emergency Situations and the Pakistani Chairman of the National Disaster Management Commission, with words of condolences and an offer to help,” the statement said.