GAYAN, Afghanistan－Afghan authorities struggled on Thursday to reach a remote area hit by an earthquake that killed 1,000 people, but poor communications and a lack of proper roads hampered their efforts, officials said.
The magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck early on Wednesday about 160 kilometers 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're trying to get updates," said Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest hit Paktika province, referring to telephone networks in the area.
The earthquake killed around 1,000 people and injured 1,500 others, he said. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that he was saddened by the tragic loss of life in the quake.
"My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan who are already reeling from the impact of years of conflict, economic hardship and hunger. I convey my deep condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured," he said.
The quake was Afghanistan's deadliest in two decades, and officials said the toll could rise.
About 600 people had been rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night, disaster management officials said.
In the town of Gayan, close to the epicenter, villagers stood atop a pile of mud bricks that once was a home there. Others carefully walked through dirt alleyways, gripping damaged walls with exposed timber beams to make their way across.
The rescue operation will be a major test for the authorities, who took over the country in August last year after two decades of war and have been cut off from much foreign assistance because of Western sanctions.
Still, officials from multiple agencies of the United Nations said that the Taliban were giving them full access to the area.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on social media that eight trucks of food and other necessities from Pakistan arrived in Paktika.
He said on Thursday that two planes of humanitarian aid from Iran and another from Qatar had arrived in the country.