In a rare move, the Taliban’s reclusive supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzadah, who almost never appears in public, called for “the international community and all humanitarian organizations to help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy and to spare no effort to help the affected people.”

A powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing 1,000 people and injuring 1,500 more in one of the country’s deadliest quakes in decades, the state-run news agency reported. Officials warned that the already grim toll may still rise, AP reports.

Information from the remote area near the Pakistani border remained scarce, but early footage from villages tucked among the rough mountains showed residents picking through rubble of collapsed stone and mudbrick houses.

The disaster posed a major test for Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which seized power nearly 10 months ago as the U.S. and its NATO allies prepared to pull out of the country and has been largely shunned by the world community since.

Rescuers rushed to the area by helicopter, but the response is likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Moreover, most governments are wary of dealing directly with the Taliban, a reluctance that could slow the deployment of emergency aid and teams typically sent after such natural disasters.

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