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Sharan (Afghanistan) (AFP) – Many survivors of Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in more than two decades were left without food, shelter or water on Friday, waiting in devastated villages for rescuers to arrive as rain added to their suffering.

Wednesday’s 5.9 quake struck hardest in the rugged east along the border with Pakistan, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving thousands homeless.

In some of the hardest-hit areas, entire villages were razed to the ground, where survivors say they even tried to find equipment to bury their dead.

“No blankets, no tents, no shelter. Our entire water supply system is destroyed. We literally have nothing to eat,” Zaitullah Gurzival, 21, told an AFP team that arrived in his village in the hard-hit Paktika province.

Mohammad Amin Hudhaifa, the provincial information chief, said heavy rains and flooding are hampering relief efforts.

Deadly earthquake in Afghanistan
Deadly earthquake in Afghanistan AFP

Communications also suffered as the quake toppled mobile phone towers and power lines.

The quake struck areas already affected by heavy rains, causing rockfalls and landslides that wiped out villages perilously located on the mountain slopes.

Officials say nearly 10,000 homes have been destroyed, raising alarm in an area where the average household size is over 20 people.

“Seven in one room, five in another room, four in another and three in a third were killed in my family,” Bibi Hawa told AFP from a hospital bed in Paktika’s capital, Sharan.

Save the Children said more than 118,000 children were affected by the disaster.

“Many children are now likely to be left without clean drinking water, food and a safe place to sleep,” the international charity said.

UN mobilizes

The disaster presents a huge logistical challenge for the Taliban government, which has isolated itself from much of the world by imposing hardline Islamic rule.

The aid-dependent country has seen much of its foreign aid cut off since the Taliban seized power last August, and even before Wednesday’s crash, the United Nations was warning of a humanitarian crisis that threatened the entire population.

Officials say about 10,000 homes were destroyed, raising alarm in an area where the average household size is over 20 people.
Officials say about 10,000 homes were destroyed, raising alarm in an area where the average household size is over 20 people. Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN AFP

But the earthquake has prompted a flood of sympathy from abroad, although many fear how any help will be used.

“The distribution of aid will be transparent,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi told AFP, adding that “many countries have backed us and supported us.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the global agency is “fully mobilized” to help.

The UNHCR refugee agency sent tents, blankets and plastic sheeting, he said; The World Food Program delivered food to about 14,000 people; and the World Health Organization provided 10 tons of medical supplies, enough for 5,400 surgeries.

The disaster presents a huge logistical challenge for the Taliban government, which has isolated itself from much of the world by imposing hardline Islamic rule.
The disaster presents a huge logistical challenge for the Taliban government, which has isolated itself from much of the world by imposing hardline Islamic rule. Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN AFP

Afghan government officials said on Thursday that planes carrying humanitarian aid had landed from Qatar and Iran, while Pakistan sent trucks carrying tents, medical supplies and food across the border.

Even before the Taliban came to power, Afghan emergency response teams were forced to deal with the natural disasters that often hit the country.

But with only a few airworthy planes and helicopters left since they returned to power, any immediate response to the latest disaster is even more limited.

“We hope that the international community and aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation,” Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official, tweeted.

Afghanistan’s deadliest recent earthquake in 1998 killed 5,000 people in the northeastern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.

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