GAYAN, Afghanistan Survivors dug by hand through villages in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday turned into rubble by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people as the Taliban and the fleeing international community fought to help disaster victims.
In the Gayan neighborhood of Paktika province, hit hard, villagers stood on the mud bricks that once housed a house there. Others walk cautiously through the dirt alleys, clinging to damaged walls with exposed wooden beams to make their way.
The quake was the deadliest in Afghanistan in two decades and officials said the number could rise. About 1,500 others were reported injured, the state news agency said.
The aftermath of the magnitude 6 earthquake raises more misery in a country where millions of people face growing hunger and poverty and the health system has been devastated since the Taliban regained power nearly 10 months ago amid US-NATO withdrawal. s. The takeover led to a cessation of vital international funding and most of the world has shunned the Taliban government.
How and if the Taliban allow the world to offer aid remains in question as rescuers without heavy equipment dug through the rubble with their bare hands.
“We ask the Islamic Emirates and the whole country to come forward and help us,” said a survivor who gave his name as Hakimullah. “We are without anything and have nothing, not even a tent to live on.”
The full extent of the destruction among the villages submerged in the mountains was slow in coming to light. Roads, which are dilapidated and difficult to travel in the best of circumstances, may have been severely damaged and landslides from recent rains have made access even more difficult.
While modern buildings withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s mud-brick houses and landslide-prone mountains make such tremors even more dangerous.
Rescue teams rushed by helicopter, but the relief effort could be thwarted by the exodus of many international aid agencies from Afghanistan following the Taliban invasion last August. Moreover, most governments are wary of dealing directly with the Taliban.
Ebrahim Noroozi / AP
In a show of mixed work between the Taliban and the rest of the world, the Taliban had not formally requested that the UN mobilize international search and rescue teams or obtain equipment from neighboring countries to complement several dozen ambulances and several helicopters sent. by the Afghan authorities, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan.
However, officials from numerous UN agencies said the Taliban were giving them full access to the area.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks of food and other necessities from Pakistan arrived in Paktika. He also said on Thursday that two planes with humanitarian aid from Iran and another from Qatar had arrived in the country.
Obtaining more direct international aid can be more difficult: Many countries, including the US, send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the UN and other such organizations to avoid putting money in the hands of the Taliban.
In a news bulletin Thursday, Afghan state television acknowledged that US President Joe Biden, their former enemy, offered condolences for the quake and promised help. Biden ordered on Wednesday “USAID and other federal government partners to evaluate US response options to help those most affected,” a White House statement said.
The quake was centered in Paktika province, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, according to the Meteorological Department of neighboring Pakistan. Experts say its depth is only 10 kilometers (6 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage.
The death toll reported by the Bakhtar news agency was equal to that of a 2002 earthquake in northern Afghanistan. These are the deadliest since 1998, when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake and aftershocks in the Far Northeast killed at least 4,500 people.
Wednesday’s quake struck in a landslide-prone region, with many older and weaker buildings.
In the Speray district of neighboring Khost province, which also suffered serious damage, men stood on top of what was once a mud house. The quake had cracked its wooden beams. People sat outside under a makeshift tent made of a blanket that blew in the wind.
Survivors quickly prepared the dead of the district, including children and an infant, for burial. Officials fear more dead will be found in the coming days.
“It is difficult to gather all the accurate information because it is a mountainous area,” said Sultan Mahmood, Speray district chief. “The information we have is what we have collected from the inhabitants of these areas.
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