At least 76 people were killed in Afghanistan after the powerful quake struck yesterday in the Hindu Kush region, officials said, raising fears that the toll could rise as the full extent of the devastation emerges.
    
Rescuers are battling to access some of the worst-affected areas across multiple provinces that are effectively under militant control, a huge challenge to any official aid efforts. But the Taliban yesterday promised to pave access for aid organisations.
    
"The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) calls on... charitable organisations to not hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies to the victims of this earthquake," the group said on its website.

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"It similarly orders its Mujahideen in the affected areas to lend their complete help to the victims and facilitate those giving charity to the needy."
    
Afghan disaster management officials say areas around the quake's epicentre in the remote province of Badakhshan as well as neighbouring provinces such as Takhar and Kunar have suffered huge devastation.
    
Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said an initial assessment shows around 4,000 houses have been damaged by the powerful quake.

See in pics: Earthquake wreak havoc in Pakistan
    
"Some 76 people including women and children were killed and 268 others were injured in the quake," he said, warning that the toll was expected to rise.
    
The quake was centred near Jurm in northeast Afghanistan, 250 kilometres (160 miles) from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213.5 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
    
The tremor, which lasted at least one minute, shook buildings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, sending thousands of frightened people rushing into the streets.

See in pics: Earthquake jolts Afghanistan, India and Pakistan

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