“It was strong,” said a resident of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
The international community has largely left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country of 38 million people last year amid the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from the longest war in its history.
But humanitarian aid has continued and international agencies such as the United Nations operate in the country.
An Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman said they would welcome help from any international organisation.
In Kabul, Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund convened an emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace to coordinate the relief effort for the victims.
The UN resident coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, expressed condolences to the victims and said that the world body’s agencies were responding to the earthquake’s devastation.
“Response is on its way,” he wrote on Twitter.
The state-run Bakhtar news agency said rescuers were arriving by helicopter. The news agency’s director-general, Abdul Wahid Rayan, wrote on Twitter that 90 houses had been destroyed in Paktika and dozens of people were believed trapped under the rubble.
Footage from Paktika province near the Pakistan border showed victims being carried into helicopters to be airlifted from the area. Images widely circulating online from the province showed destroyed stone houses, with residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble.
“A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,” Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, separately wrote on Twitter. “We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”
In neighbouring Khost province, authorities believed there were also dozens injured and dead in the earthquake as well, Rayan said.
Mountainous Afghanistan and the larger region of South Asia along the Hindu Kush mountains, where the Indian tectonic plate collides with the Eurasian plate to the north, has long been vulnerable to devastating earthquakes. Poor construction for homes, hospitals and other buildings put them at risk of collapse in earthquakes, while landslides remain commons across the mountains of Afghanistan.
In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the country’s northeast killed over 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan. A similar 6.1 earthquake in 2002 killed about 1000 people in northern Afghanistan. And in 1998, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tremors in Afghanistan’s remote northeast killed at least 4500 people.