Afghanistan earthquake update: Rescuers search for survivors

Credit…Ali Khara / Reuters

Hopes of finding more survivors of Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in decades waned on Thursday, as officials said rescue efforts were nearing completion in mountainous and regional areas. remote areas are the hardest hit.

Attention is turning to providing aid to the injured and shelter to those displaced by a disaster that is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people.

The difficult terrain and deep poverty in southeastern Afghanistan, along the Pakistani border, pose a particular challenge to aid efforts. Some residents live in houses of clay and straw, and the entire village is said to have been nearly wiped out in the earthquake. Thousands of people spent the night in the unseasonal cold, some suffering from rain, wind and even snow.

The heaviest damage appeared to have been in Paktika province, although the epicenter of the 5.9-magnitude quake was about 28 miles southwest. According to the United States Geological Survey.

Sanaullah Masoum, a spokesman for the Paktika governor, said: “The assistance of relief agencies includes medical assistance, food, tents and blankets, but the crisis is spreading in the region and is insufficient”. “We call on aid agencies to provide more food, medical and humanitarian assistance.”

The Taliban government says some supplies have arrived in the country, including by air from Iran and Qatar and overland from Pakistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban government, said eight trucks of goods from Pakistan have been delivered to the affected areas, and further supplies have arrived in the capital, Kabul, and will soon be delivered to the area. earthquake area.

The area is far from many medical stations or hospitals that can help the injured. The Afghan Defense Ministry has dispatched seven helicopters and a medical team to transport the wounded to military and civilian hospitals, the state news agency reported.

Mr. Masoum said that the rescue operation in Paktika ended on Wednesday evening. Local authorities in Afghanistan have told international organizations that their search and rescue efforts in the areas are 90% complete and aid groups are focusing on providing shelter and care. care for survivors, said Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, head of the United Nations office in Afghanistan. for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs.

On Thursday, temperatures rose rapidly, raising fears that those who had to spend a cold night would soon be left under the scorching heat, Ms. Carlsen said. Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation, she said, could trigger outbreaks in the coming days and weeks, adding to the crisis.

“It’s many layers and many layers of aggravating factors,” she said. “After an immediate life-saving response, these communities will take a long time to recover. There is already very high vulnerability in the area. “

Relief supplies

Phone and internet coverage is poor or absent in some parts of the area, making it difficult to assess the exact damage and death toll. Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s deputy special representative, said on Wednesday that nearly 2,000 homes had been destroyed.

Mohammad Almas, head of aid and appeals at Qamar, a charity that operates in the area, said that because the quake struck at night, most people were sleeping indoors. More than 25 villages were nearly destroyed, he said, including when a landslide following the earthquake wiped out one village. He added that in one village, a house collapsed on 18 members of a family, leaving only one child alive.

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