About 2,000 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured after a series of earthquakes flattened a district capital and villages in northern Afghanistan late Monday night and yesterday morning.
"It was a very heartrending catastrophe. About 2,000 died," Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni said, adding that the government simply couldn't cope with the scale of the disaster.
"The bodies of 1,800 have been pulled out of the rubble, but many more are still buried. More than 3,000 have been injured and 30,000 displaced," he said.
"It is beyond the interim government to deal with this tragedy. We ask all international agencies and foreign countries to help us in this emergency situation," he said at Kabul airport before flying to war-ravaged Afghanistan's latest disaster zone.
Officials and aid workers said aftershocks continued yesterday afternoon, hampering rescue efforts and terrifying residents in the devastated market town of Nahrin, a district capital of mud-brick buildings and surrounding villages.
"We are sending rescue teams, but aftershocks make relief efforts dangerous," a Defense Ministry spokesman said
Nahrin, near the epicenter in the rugged Hindu Kush mountains, had been destroyed and 1,500 homes had crumbled, officials and aid workers said.
"Around 90 percent of residential houses in ... Nahrin have been destroyed by the earthquake and aftershocks," said Ehsan Ahmad Zahin of the French aid agency ACTED, which has a team on the spot.
"The first priority is to send shelter, blankets, food and water," Zahin said after quakes which measured between five and six on the Richter scale.