Gayan, Afghanistan (AP) — Villagers rushed to fill the dead on Thursday, digging the rubble of their homes in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan that state media reported killed 1,000. .. The Taliban and the international community, which escaped their takeover, struggled to bring help to the victims of the disaster.
Under the bright red sky of Pactica, the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, a man dug a row of tombs in a village in an attempt to quickly rest the dead in line with Islamic tradition. In one courtyard, the body was wrapped in plastic and lay to protect it from the rain that hindered its life-saving efforts.
The state-owned Bakhtar News Agency reported the death toll and said an estimated 1,500 people were injured. In the first independent count, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that about 770 people were killed in Paktika and the neighboring state of Khost.
Given the difficulty of accessing and communicating with the affected villages, which are quietly nestled on distant hillsides, it is not clear how the totals were obtained. In both severe cases, the quake has become the most deadly in Afghanistan in 20 years, and authorities continued to warn that the number could still increase.
“They can’t eat anything, they’re wondering what they have to eat, and it’s raining,” Baktar said in a video from the seismic zone. “Their homes have been destroyed. Help them, don’t leave them alone.”
Disasters are even more dire in countries where millions of people are already facing rising hunger and poverty. And after the Taliban regained power in the withdrawal of the United States and NATO about 10 months ago, the healthcare system collapsed...
How can the international humanitarian community, which has pulled back significant resources from the country, provide assistance, and how much the Taliban government allows it to remain a problem. The Taliban takeover has led to significant international financial blockades, and most governments are still wary of dealing directly with them.
UN agencies and other organizations operating in Afghanistan said they had sent supplies such as medical kits, tents and plastic tarpaulins to the area, but the needs were immeasurable as the entire village was severely damaged. do not have.
“We ask the Islamic Emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,” said a survivor named Hakimura. “We don’t have anything, we don’t even have a tent to live in.”
Search and rescue remained a priority. In the hit Gayan district, much of the rubble was too big to move by hand or shovel. They said they wanted large excavators to build their remote homes. So far, there was only one bulldozer in the area.
On Wednesday, UN officials mobilized an international search and rescue team and equipment from neighboring countries, despite a rare plea from the world for help from Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhnzada. Said he did not require to obtain or obtain.
UN agencies are facing a $ 3 billion shortage of funds for Afghanistan this year, and UN refugee agency spokesman Peter Kessler said it means there are difficult decisions about who will get help. ..
In addition to political and financial concerns, there was also the task of logistical support to obtain assistance to remote villages. Roads that are rutted and difficult to navigate in the best of circumstances can be severely damaged by the earthquake, and some have become impassable due to recent rain landslides. Just 175 km (110 miles) just south of the capital Kabul, some villages in the Gayan district arrived by car over a day.
The rescue team rushed by helicopter — and the Associated Press journalist also saw an ambulance in the seismic zone on Thursday — but heavier equipment would be difficult to deliver.
The walls and roofs of dozens of Gayan houses collapsed in the earthquake, and villagers said the entire family was buried under rubble. Associated Press journalists counted about 50 bodies in the area alone as people placed dead in front of their homes and in the courtyard.
Modern buildings can withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, but mudbrick houses and landslide-prone mountains in Afghanistan make such earthquakes more dangerous. Shallow quakes also tend to cause more damage, experts say Wednesday is only 10 km (6 miles) deep.
Despite the challenge, officials from several UN agencies said the Taliban gave them full access to the area.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks of food and other necessities from Pakistan have arrived in Paktika. He also said Thursday that two planes of humanitarian aid from Iran and another plane from Qatar arrived in the country.
It may be more difficult to get more direct international assistance. Many countries, including the United States, are pouring humanitarian aid into Afghanistan through the United Nations and other such organizations to avoid spending money on the Taliban.
In a breaking news Thursday, Afghanistan’s state television emphasized admitting that former enemy US President Joe Biden had condolences for the quake and promised help. According to a White House statement, Biden ordered US international aid agencies and their partners to “evaluate” options to help victims on Wednesday.
The death toll reported by Bakhtar was the same as the death toll from the 2002 earthquake in northern Afghanistan. The 1998 magnitude 6.1 earthquake and subsequent tremors in the northeast killed at least 4,500 people.
According to the neighboring Pakistani Meteorological Bureau, the quake on Wednesday centered around Paktika, about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Khost.
In the Speray district of Khost, which was also severely damaged, a man stood on what was once a mud house. The quake tore open the timber beams. People were sitting outside under a temporary tent made of breeze-blown blankets.
The survivors immediately prepared to bury the dead in the district, including children and toddlers. Authorities are afraid to find more dead in the future.
“The damage this disaster will do to the community … is devastating, and the impact of the quake on the already expanding humanitarian response in Afghanistan is of great concern,” said Adnan Junaid, Vice President of Asia. Says. International Rescue Committee. “The most affected areas are the poorest and most remote areas of Afghanistan, and there is a lack of infrastructure to withstand such disasters.”
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Rahim Faiez and Munir Ahmed of Islamabad contributed to this report.