An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 killed 920 people in Afghanistan early on Wednesday, disaster management officials said, with more than 600 injured and the toll expected to grow as information trickles in from remote mountain villages.
Photographs on Afghan media showed houses reduced to rubble, with bodies swathed in blankets lying on the ground.
Helicopters were deployed in the rescue effort to reach the injured and fly in medical supplies and food, said an interior ministry official, Salahuddin Ayubi.
“The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to collect details.”
Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest since 2002. It struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the southeastern city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGC) said.
Most of the confirmed deaths were in the eastern province of Paktika, where 255 people were killed and more than 200 injured, Ayubi added. In the province of Khost, 25 were dead and 90 had been taken to hospital.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the ruling Taliban, offered his condolences in a statement.
Mounting a rescue operation could prove a major test for the Taliban, who took over the country in August and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions.
Shaking was felt by about 119 million people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the EMSC said on Twitter, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Pakistan.
The EMSC put the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1, though the USGC said it was 5.9.
Adding to the challenge for Afghan authorities is recent flooding in many regions, which the disaster agency said had killed 11, injured 50 and blocked stretches of highway.
The disaster comes as Afghanistan grapples with a severe economic crisis since the Taliban took over, as U.S.-led international forces withdrew following two decades of war.
In response to the Taliban takeover, many nations imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of development aid.
Humanitarian aid has continued, however, with international agencies, such as the United Nations, operating.
The U.N.’s office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Afghanistan had asked humanitarian agencies to help with rescue efforts, and teams were being despatched to the quake-hit area.
A spokesman of Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said it would welcome international help. Neighbouring Pakistan said it was working to extend assistance.
Large parts of South Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.
In 2015, an earthquake struck the remote Afghan northeast, killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and nearby northern Pakistan.
In January, an earthquake struck western Afghanistan, killing more than 20 people.
Hot dog eating champ wins again in July 4 contest in New York
A man with the playful name Joey Chestnut wolfed down 63 hot dogs in 10 minutes Monday to win the annual July 4 competitive eating contest featuring America’s quintessential cookout food on Coney Island in New York.
Chestnut has now won 15 times but on Monday he fell way short of the record he set in 2020 when he downed 76 hotdogs, buns included, also in just 10 minutes.
So he apologized to the crowd and said he would do better next year.
Chestnut told AFP he trains by eating hot dogs often and taking part in eating contests featuring them about once a week.
After Monday’s virtuoso performance, he said he will not touch food again for a day.
Chestnut was the undisputed winner of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, finishing far ahead of the field.
|Competitors from all over America and as far away as Australia tend to dunk their hotdogs in water or soda to make them easier to swallow in such rapid succession without gagging. Photo: AFP|
Second place went to one Geoffrey Esper with 47.5 franks and buns, and third to James Webb at 41.
“Joey Chestnut is a force from beyond who defies the laws of physics,” said contest host George Shea.
In the women’s category, Miki Sudo triumphed with 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
Sudo returned after sitting out last year because she was pregnant. This time she showed off her new baby. She fell short of her record of 48 franks.
Competitors from all over America and as far away as Australia tend to dunk their hotdogs in water or soda to make them easier to swallow in such rapid succession without gagging.
“The Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest is arguably the most iconic sporting event in American history,” Shea said.
“The event is a crucible through which greatness is forged.”
Australia floods worsen as thousands more flee Sydney homes
Torrential rains kept battering Australia’s east coast on Tuesday, intensifying the flood crisis in Sydney as thousands more residents were ordered to leave their homes after rivers swiftly rose past danger levels.
About 50,000 residents in New South Wales, most in Sydney’s western suburbs, have been told to either evacuate or warned they might receive evacuation orders, up from Monday’s 30,000, authorities said.
“This event is far from over,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters. “Wherever you are, please be careful when you’re driving on our roads. There are still substantial risks for flash flooding.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who returned to Australia Tuesday after a week-long trip to Europe, said he would tour the affected regions on Wednesday along with Perrottet.
|A vehicle is submerged by floodwaters in a residential area following heavy rains in the Windsor suburb of Sydney, Australia, July 5, 2022. Photo: Reuters|
The federal government has declared the floods a natural disaster, helping flood-hit residents receive emergency funding support.
The latest wild storm cell – which brought a year’s worth of rain in three days to some areas – is likely to ease in Sydney from Tuesday as the coastal trough moves north, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said.
But the risk of flooding could remain through the week with most river catchments already near capacity even before the latest deluge. Some regions have received 800mm (31.5 inches) of rain since Saturday, eclipsing Australia’s annual average rainfall of around 500mm (20 inches).
About 90mm (3.5 inches) of rain could fall over six hours in the state’s mid-north coast from Tuesday, reaching up to 125mm (5 inches) in some places, BoM said.
Winds up to 90 km per hour (56 miles per hour) are also forecast in several flood-hit places, raising the risk of falling trees and power lines.
|People walk past floodwaters following heavy rains in the Windsor suburb of Sydney, Australia, July 5, 2022. Photo: Reuters|
Battling rough seas, emergency crews continued their rescue operation on Tuesday to tow a bulk carrier ship that lost power off Sydney’s coast after tow lines broke in severe weather, officials said.
Major flooding is occurring at Windsor in Sydney’s west, its third and most severe flood this year, according to the weather bureau.
Footage on social media showed submerged roads and bridges, while emergency crews rescued stranded people from partially submerged vehicles that became stuck in rising waters.
Nigel Myron, a Windsor resident, said he has kept an inflatable boat ready if he had to evacuate though he is looking to move back to his place once waters recede.
“At the end of the day, what can you do? It is what it is and we dust ourselves off from the ashes and rebuild after the floods have come and gone,” Myron told ABC television.
|Floodwaters submerge residential areas following heavy rains in the Windsor suburb of Sydney, Australia, July 5, 2022. Photo: Reuters|
‘Substantial economic impact’
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers warned the economic impact from the floods “will be substantial”.
Floods have likely inundated several food-producing regions and that would hit supplies and lift prices, further straining family budgets already reeling under soaring prices of vegetables and fruits, Chalmers said.
“There’s no use tiptoeing around that … that inflation problem that we have in our economy will get worse before it gets better. It’s got a lot of sources, but this (flood) will be one of them,” Chalmers told Sky News.
The Reserve Bank of Australia flagged the floods “are also affecting some prices” as it raised its cash rate a hefty 50 basis points on Tuesday and flagged more tightening ahead to tame surging inflation. read more
The Insurance Council of Australia, which declared the floods a ‘significant event’, urged affected people to apply for claims, even though the full extent of damage was unknown now.
|People wade through floodwaters to enter a partially submerged residence following heavy rains in the Windsor suburb of Sydney, Australia, July 5, 2022. Photo: Reuters|
Hacker claims to have stolen 1 billion records of Chinese citizens from police
A hacker has claimed to have procured a trove of personal information from the Shanghai police on one billion Chinese citizens, which tech experts say, if true, would be one of the biggest data breaches in history.
The anonymous internet user, identified as “ChinaDan”, posted on hacker forum Breach Forums last week offering to sell the more than 23 terabytes (TB) of data for 10 bitcoin, equivalent to about $200,000.
“In 2022, the Shanghai National Police (SHGA) database was leaked. This database contains many TB of data and information on Billions of Chinese citizen,” the post said.
“Databases contain information on 1 Billion Chinese national residents and several billion case records, including: name, address, birthplace, national ID number, mobile number, all crime/case details.”
Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the post.
The Shanghai government and police department did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Reuters was also unable to reach the self-proclaimed hacker, ChinaDan, but the post was widely discussed on China’s Weibo and WeChat social media platforms over the weekend with many users worried it could be real.
The hashtag “data leak” was blocked on Weibo by Sunday afternoon.
Kendra Schaefer, head of tech policy research at Beijing-based consultancy Trivium China, said in a post on Twitter it was “hard to parse truth from rumour mill”.
If the material the hacker claimed to have came from the Ministry of Public Security, it would be bad for “a number of reasons”, Schaefer said.
“Most obviously it would be among biggest and worst breaches in history,” she said.
Zhao Changpeng, CEO of Binance, said on Monday the cryptocurrency exchange had stepped up user verification processes after the exchange’s threat intelligence detected the sale of records belonging to 1 billion residents of an Asian country on the dark web.
He said on Twitter that a leak could have happened due to “a bug in an Elastic Search deployment by a (government) agency”, without saying if he was referring to the Shanghai police case. He did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The claim of a hack comes as China has vowed to improve protection of online user data privacy, instructing its tech giants to ensure safer storage after public complaints about mismanagement and misuse.
Last year, China passed new laws governing how personal information and data generated within its borders should be handled.
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