Thursday saw villagers rush to burrow the deceased and dig through the debris of their houses in search for survivors after the devastating earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, which claimed at least 1000 lives. The Taliban and the international community that fled their takeover struggled to bring help to the disaster’s victims.
Under a leaden sky in Paktika province, which was the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, men dug a line of graves in one village, as they tried to lay the dead to rest quickly in line with Muslim tradition. One courtyard contained bodies wrapped in plastic, to keep them dry from the torrential rains.
The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, and, with the full extent of the destruction among the villages tucked in the mountains only slowly coming to light, officials said the toll could rise. The Bakhtar News Agency reported that an additional 1,500 people were injured.
“They don’t have anything to eat, they are wondering what they can have to eat, and it is also raining,”Bakhtar’s reporter stated this in video footage taken from the earthquake zone. “Their houses are destroyed. Please help them, don’t leave them alone.”
It adds misery to a nation already suffering from increasing hunger and poverty. In addition, the country’s health system collapsed almost 10 months after the Taliban came back to power amid U.S.-NATO withdrawal.
What the international humanitarian organization, having pulled significant resources back from the country’s economy, can do to help and in what way the Taliban government is willing to accept aid. The Taliban’s takeover led to a cutoff of vital international financing, and most governments remain wary of dealing directly with them.
U.N. and other agencies still in Afghanistan claimed they provided supplies, such as tents and plastic roofing, to help with the massive destruction of entire villages.
“We ask from the Islamic Emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,”A survivor named Hakimullah and said that he was a victim. “We are with nothing and have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”
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Rescue and search were a top priority. Much of the rubble found in Gayan District’s hard hit district was impossible to transport with either shovels and hands. Many of them hoped that large excavators could make it to their isolated homes. There was currently only one bulldozer operating in this area.
On Wednesday, a U.N. official said the government had not requested that the world body mobilize international search-and-rescue teams or obtain equipment from neighboring countries, despite a rare plea from the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzadah, for help from the world.
U.N. agencies are facing a $3 billion funding shortfall for Afghanistan this year, and Peter Kessler, a spokesman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, said that means there will be difficult decisions about who gets aid.
There were logistical difficulties in delivering aid to villages far from the capital. Roads are difficult and dangerous to navigate in poor conditions. Though just 175 kilometers (110 miles) directly south of the capital, Kabul, some villages in Gayan District took a full day’s drive to reach.
Rescuers rushed in by helicopter — and Associated Press journalists also saw ambulances in the quake zone on Thursday — but heavier equipment will be difficult to deliver.
Gayan’s roofs collapsed and wall-toppings fell on dozens of houses. Villagers said entire families had been buried in the rubble. Associated Press reporters counted more than 50 bodies. Residents left their corpses in front their homes or in their backyards.
While modern buildings withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s mud-brick homes and landslide-prone mountains make such quakes more dangerous. Shallow earthquakes also tend to cause more damage, and experts put the depth of Wednesday’s at just 10 kilometers (6 miles).
Officials from different U.N agencies stated that the Taliban allowed them to enter the region despite the difficulties.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, wrote that Paktika was receiving eight trucks laden with food and other essentials from Pakistan. On Thursday, he also stated that the country had received two humanitarian aid planes from Iran and one from Qatar.
Obtaining more direct international help may be more difficult: Many countries, including the U.S., funnel humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the U.N. and other such organizations to avoid putting money in the Taliban’s hands.
In a news bulletin Thursday, Afghanistan state television made a point to acknowledge that U.S. President Joe Biden — their one-time enemy — offered condolences over the earthquake and had promised aid. Biden directed Wednesday that the U.S. foreign aid agency (and its partners) be sent to Afghanistan. “assess”According to a White House statement, there were options available for victims.
Bakhtar said that Bakhtar had reported a death rate equal to the 2002 earthquake in Northern Afghanistan. These are the most fatalities since 1998 when an earthquake of 6.1 magnitude caused by subsequent tremors and earthquakes in remote northeast claimed at least 4500 lives.
The Taliban have so far provided the sole casualty numbers in this disaster, but they have yet to explain how these figures came about.
Wednesday’s quake was centered in Paktika province, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, according to neighboring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department.
In neighboring Khost province’s Speray district, which also sustained serious damage, men stood atop what once was a mud home. Its timber beams had been ripped out by the earthquake. A blanket, which blew in the wind, was used to make a temporary tent for people who sat outdoors.
Survivors quickly prepared the district’s dead, including children and an infant, for burial. Officials worry that there will be more victims in the days ahead.
“The toll this disaster will have on the local communities … is catastrophic, and the impact the earthquake will have on the already stretched humanitarian response in Afghanistan is a grave cause for concern,”Adnan Junaid was vice president Asia for the International Rescue Committee. “The areas most affected are some of the poorest and most remote areas in Afghanistan, which lack the infrastructure to withstand disasters like this.”
This article was written by The Associated Press
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