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Earthquake Injures Dozens, Destroys Hundreds of Homes in Afghanistan

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FILE - A 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck the same region of eastern Afghanistan – pictured here – on Monday as one did in late June. The June quake killed hundreds of people and destroyed dozens of structures, such as those in this photo taken June 24, 2022.

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan said Tuesday that an overnight earthquake in a remote southeastern region injured at least 44 people and destroyed 600 homes.

The temblor jolted several districts of Paktika province, where a 5.9 magnitude earthquake last month killed more than 1,000 people, injured nearly 3,000, and destroyed or partially damaged at least 4,500 homes.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the latest earthquake had a magnitude of 5.1, and residents have since reported several aftershocks.

A provincial government spokesman, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, told VOA that women and children were among at least 31 people injured in Paktika. Taliban officials in neighboring Khost province, which was also hit by the previous earthquake, reported at least 13 injuries Monday from tremors.

The United Nations said in its latest assessment this week that the June 22 earthquake had affected more than 360,000 people in Paktika and Khost, which border Pakistan.

Huzaifa said Paktika had suffered 30 aftershocks since last month's quake.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told a daily news conference in New York that the latest earthquake's epicenter was just three kilometers from the one that hit the region in June.

"Preliminary reports indicate that people have been injured, families displaced, and houses damaged and destroyed, but we don't know the full extent of the damage due to limited communications on the ground," Haq said.

He noted that the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has deployed a team to Khost to assess the needs there, while other partners have deployed mobile health teams to several places.

"We also continue to respond to needs following the 22 June earthquake. To date, nearly 138,000 people have been reached with at least one form of assistance, including water and sanitation, food, health services, protection services and shelter," Haq said.

As of July 14, he added, approximately $44 million has been pledged for the earthquake response, but the U.N. still needs $66 million to help the 362,000 people in need there.

War-ravaged Afghanistan is already among the world's largest humanitarian emergencies. The United Nations says, in part due to severe drought and economic crisis, more than half of the country's estimated 40 million population need assistance, and malnutrition is on the rise.

The U.N. has appealed for $4.4 billion this year but faces a 70% shortfall.

The recent earthquakes and incidents of increased flash flooding due to unusually heavy rains risk exposing the limitations of the cash-strapped Taliban government, which is largely isolated from the outside world.

The hardline Islamist group seized power from the then-internationally backed Afghan government nearly a year ago, prompting donor countries to suspend financial assistance and impose sanctions on the Afghan banking sector over terrorism and human rights concerns.

The measures have triggered economic upheaval and deteriorating humanitarian conditions, according to aid agencies.

International humanitarian assistance, however, continues to flow into the country.

The global community has not yet recognized the Taliban government, and billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves also remain frozen overseas as United States-led Western nations push the Islamist rulers to ease restrictions on women's rights to work and education.

VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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