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Aid trickles in to Afghan quake zone, toll at 1,000 dead

Aid trickles in to Afghan quake zone, toll at 1,000 dead
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GAYAN, Afghanistan: Aid began arriving on Thursday in a remote part of Afghanistan where an earthquake killed 1,000 people but poor communications and a lack of proper roads are hampering relief efforts in a country already grappling with a humanitarian crisis.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck early on Wednesday about 160 km, (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

"We can't reach the area, the networks are too weak, we trying to get updates," Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika province, told Reuters, referring to telephone networks.

The earthquake killed 1,000 people and injured 1,500, he said. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed.

The toll makes its Afghanistan's deadliest earthquake in two decades, according to U.S. government data. About 1,000 people had been rescued from various affected areas by Thursday morning, Sharafat Zaman, a spokesperson for the health ministry told Reuters.

"Aid has arrived to the area and it is continuing but more is needed," he said.

The town of Gayan, close to the epicentre, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed, a Reuters team said.

The town, with only the most basic roads, was bustling with Taliban soldiers and ambulances as a helicopter bringing in relief supplies landed nearby, whipping up huge swirls of dust. About 300 people sat on the ground waiting for supplies.

The rescue operation will be a major test for the hard-line Islamist Taliban, who took over last August as U.S.-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war.

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