KABUL: Rescue workers in eastern Afghanistan continued their relief efforts on Thursday to help survivors of a deadly earthquake that official figures have killed at least 1,000 people in the mountainous region.
The 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit parts of Pakistan’s neighboring Paktika and Khost provinces on Tuesday night, flattening homes as people slept inside.
Paktika was the hardest hit, with officials estimating that more than 1,000 people were killed and more than 1,500 injured in the province’s Gayan and Barmal districts alone.
The extent of the destruction in villages nestled in the mountains has been slow to emerge as search and rescue efforts have been hampered by heavy rains and poor connectivity in the affected areas. UN World Food Program teams deployed to deliver emergency supplies estimated that more than 70% of homes in the worst affected areas have been destroyed.
“The whole area looks like an open camp,” Qais Mohammad Muslim, an aid worker who arrived in Gayan district, told Arab News. “People have no shelter or food. Aid (which has reached) the region so far is weak and insufficient.
Paktika resident Abdul Qudos said he had never experienced such a powerful and destructive earthquake.
“Entire villages have been sunk into the ground in Barmal and Gayan districts. There are families who have lost all their members,” he said. “We must do everything to help them. The international community must provide urgent assistance to prevent further damage and loss.
The answer is complicated as rescuers work without heavy equipment and proper medical support, after many organizations pulled out of the aid-dependent country when the Taliban took power last August.
Following the Taliban government’s appeal for foreign aid, its chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Thursday that planes with aid had already arrived from Qatar and Iran, and that Trucks carrying food had reached Paktika by road from Pakistan.
But more help is needed.
Naeem Hakim of the Afghan aid group Ehsas Welfare and Social Services Organization, who arrived in Paktika on Wednesday, said local hospitals were struggling to treat the injured.
“There is an urgent need for blood (for) the seriously injured and medicine,” he told Arab News. “Since yesterday, 600 to 700 injured people have been taken to the nearest hospital in Urgun district. About 200 are still there today. The most serious are transferred to the military hospital in the provincial capital Sharana, to the provincial hospital and to the hospitals ofgarde and Ghazni.
The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest since 1998, when tremors of magnitude 6.5 killed more than 4,000 people in the country’s northern Takhar province.
Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said Wednesday that at least $15 million in aid was needed to respond to the disaster – a figure that was expected to rise in the coming days.