Your Thursday Briefing: A Deadly Earthquake in Afghanistan

We’re covering a deadly earthquake in Afghanistan and the effects of China’s ban of a Taiwanese fish.

An earthquake struck a remote and mountainous part of Afghanistan yesterday, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring at least 1,600 others.

The quake, which had a magnitude of 5.9, struck about 28 miles southwest of the city of Khost, but the worst damage was in the neighboring Paktika province, which lies along the border with Pakistan and where some residents live in houses made of clay and straw. It was the deadliest earthquake to hit Afghanistan in more than two decades, and the number of casualties was expected to rise, a U.N. agency said.

Search-and-rescue efforts, led by the Afghan Ministry of Defense, were hampered by wind and heavy rain, which prevented helicopters from landing safely. A U.N. representative for Afghanistan reported that nearly 2,000 homes were destroyed. Afghan families are typically large, and families sometimes live together, the representative said, and the earthquake will most likely displace many people.

Eyewitness: Sarhadi Khosti, 26, who lives in the Sperah district of Khost Province, said that the earthquake woke him up after 1 a.m. and destroyed a number of houses — especially those made of earth or wood. “For now, we still are busy pulling the dead or injured from under the rubble,” he said.

Pakistan: The earthquake was felt in several parts of Pakistan, but the country was spared the kind of damage seen in neighboring Afghanistan.

Government: The earthquake is just the latest challenge to confront the fledgling Taliban government.

The slow, brutal advance of Russian troops has tightened their vise around Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk — the neighboring cities where Ukrainian forces have been attempting to stop Russia from seizing all of Luhansk province. Moscow’s forces already control most of Sievierodonetsk, making the defense of Lysychansk a key showdown for control of the Donbas region.

Russia controls about half of Donetsk province and is pushing from the east, north and south to try to take more territory there. But analysts say that Russia’s battered forces face an even more difficult battle in Donetsk than in Luhansk.

More news from the war in Ukraine:

  • Finland and Sweden, who applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, expected quick admission to the alliance. Turkey had other ideas.

China’s recent ban on importing grouper from Taiwan has quickly transformed a lucrative industry into one scrambling for support, threatening the livelihoods of fish farmers there and showing the extent of Chinese economic power.

Without the Chinese market, grouper, which is known for its lean and moist meat, is crashing in price. Last year, the vast majority of Taiwan’s grouper exports — 91 percent and more than $50 million worth — went to China. Most of those grouper were shipped alive, and shifting markets elsewhere would most likely require a system of refrigerated or frozen transportation, which would bring added costs.

The ban came as China’s leader, Xi Jinping — who has said that Taiwan’s unification with China is inevitable — has ramped up pressure on the island: sending military aircraft toward the island almost daily, peeling off its diplomatic allies and blocking it from joining international organizations. Recently, Beijing has sought to restrict the island’s access to China’s vast consumer market, banning Taiwanese pineapples and wax apples — and now grouper.

What’s next: Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture has said it will consider filing a complaint about the grouper ban to the World Trade Organization. In the meantime, grouper farmers said they would have to settle for selling the fish on the domestic market at a huge loss.

Families whose relatives have been abducted or imprisoned by North Korea are seeking to sue the country in hopes of holding it financially accountable. Odds of collecting any money from the isolated nation are low, but a few recent payouts derived from seized North Korean assets have given some families a reason to be cautiously optimistic.

When it comes to cooking, we all have to start somewhere — and for some of us, that begins with slicing an onion or cracking an egg into a pan. Maybe you’ve just graduated from college and are on your own for the first time, or perhaps you’ve never quite gotten the hang of cooking. Either way, there’s hope.

Nikita Richardson, an editor for The Times’s Food section, has collated these ten recipes for can-hardly-boil-water beginners. Arranged from easiest to hardest, they include a no-cook tuna mayo rice bowl at the easier end, and oven-roasted chicken thighs with potatoes and lemons for more of a challenge.

With practice, repetition and patience, you’ll not only develop a set of skills that you can apply to other kitchen exploits, but you’ll also have 10 delicious dishes under your belt worth cooking on repeat. Bon appétit! — Natasha Frost, a Briefings writer