Bread is carried from one of the few helicopters available to the Taliban for aid efforts in Gayan. Photograph: Ali Khara/Reuters

PAKTIKA, Afghanistan – The Taliban authorities are facing a major test to provide relief supplies to the remote areas hit by an earthquake, as the country is being deprived of international assistance since the takeover last August.

Early Wednesday morning, the magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, killing at least 1,000 people, in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

According to sources, Afghan officials struggled to reach the affected areas due to poor communications and a lack of proper roads that hampered their efforts.

“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 news agency, referring to telephone networks.

The earthquake considered to be one of the deadliest temblors in decades, killing some 1,000 people and wounded more than 1,500 other. About 600 people had been rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night.

The town of Gayan, close to the epicentre, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed, Reuters reported, destroying more than 3,000 houses.

Afghanistan Amid Continuing Crisis

Wednesday’s earthquake took place in a region prone to landslides, with many older, weaker buildings destroyed. [Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu]

The ongoing sanctions against the Taliban who took over the country last August has limited much international assistance and humanitarian aids, doubling the ongoing crisis for the already-devastated Afghans across the country.

Rescuers rushed to the area by both air and land, but the response is likely to be complicated since reaching rural areas even in the best circumstances remains difficult in Afghanistan – a landlocked nation with rutted mountain roadways that may now have sustained significant damage.

Footage from Paktika showed men carrying people in blankets to waiting helicopters, while others were treated on the ground, according to AP. Some images showed residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble from destroyed stone houses, some of whose roofs or walls had caved in.

Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund convened an emergency meeting at the presidential palace to coordinate the relief effort, the reports said, urging aid agencies to send teams to the area the best possible way.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Red Crescent Society sent some 4,000 blankets, 800 tents and 800 kitchen kits to the affected area, according to Bakhtar’s director general, Abdul Wahid Rayan.

“In addition to the extensive assistance provided by the ARCS to the earthquake-affected areas of Paktika and Khost provinces still more aid is on the way,” ARCS wrote in a tweet.

“Anyone from any part of the world who wants to help the earthquake victims in Afghanistan should send their donations” to the officials accounts of ARCS, the agency announced on twitter. “Afghan Red Crescent delivers your aid to earthquake victims in full transparency.”

Italian medical aid group Emergency, which still operates in Afghanistan, said it sent seven ambulances and staff to the areas closest to the quake zone, according to sources.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said his nation would provide help.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis offered prayers for all those killed and injured and for the “suffering of the dear Afghan population.”

In its latest, the earthquake considered to be one of the deadliest temblors in decades, killing some 1,000 people and wounded more than 1,500 other Afghans.

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