Deadly quake hits Afghanistan 2 days after devastating earthquake

An aftershock shook a hard-hit eastern area Afghanistan on Friday, two days after a earthquake rocked the region, destroying hundreds of mud-brick houses and killing 1,150 people, according to state media. The quake was the deadliest in the poverty-stricken country in two decades.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department reported a magnitude 4.2 earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan. The Reuters news agency pointed out that its epicenter was almost exactly at the same location as Wednesday’s earthquake. Afghanistan’s state-run Bakhtar News Agency said the aftershock claimed five more lives and injured 11 people.

The nation of 38 million people was already in the midst of a spiraling economic crisis that plunged millions of people into poverty with more than one million children at risk of severe malnutrition.

The magnitude 6 earthquake on Wednesday struck at night as people slept and left thousands homeless. He focused on the country’s songwriting needs. Afghanistan remains isolated from the international monetary system, and aid groups lament having to pay local officials with hand-delivered bags of cash as nations refuse to deal directly with the Taliban.

Aid organizations such as the local Red Crescent and the UN World Food Program intervened to help the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency necessities such as tents and mattresses in Paktika province, the epicenter of the earthquake, and in the neighboring province. from Khost.

Death toll from Afghan earthquake rises to 1,150
People stand in the rubble of a building after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake rocks the border provinces of Paktika, Afghanistan, June 22, 2022.

Bilal Guler / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Still, residents appeared to be largely alone in dealing with the fallout, as their new Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggle to bring in aid. The poor quality mountain roads leading to the affected areas were made worse by damage and rain. Villagers are burying their dead and digging through the rubble by hand in search of survivors.

The Taliban director of the Bakhtar agency said on Friday that the death toll had risen to 1,150 people from earlier reports of 1,000 dead. Abdul Wahid Rayan said at least 1,600 people were injured.

It is unclear how the death toll is being reached, given the difficulties of access and communication with the impacted villages.

Death toll from Afghan earthquake rises to 1,150
An Afghan child is seen outside a damaged house after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hits the border provinces of Paktika, Afghanistan, June 22, 2022.

Says Khodaiberdi Sadat / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


State media reported that around 3,000 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged. In Gayan district, at least 1,000 homes were damaged by the earthquake. Another 800 houses in the Spera district of Khost province were also damaged.

While modern buildings withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s mud-brick homes and landslide-prone mountains make these earthquakes more dangerous.

The roads in the area are so poorly paved and difficult to navigate that some villages in the Gayan district take a full day to reach from the capital of Kabul, even though it is only 110 miles away.

Agence France-Presse spotted seven World Food Program trucks entering the village of Wuchkai on Friday morning, 24 hours after leaving Kabul. leaving Kabul.

Breathtaking scenes

In villages in the Gayan district visited by Associated Press journalists for hours on Thursday, families who had spent the previous rainy night outdoors lifted pieces of wood from collapsed roofs and lifted stones by hand, searching for missing loved ones. Taliban fighters circulated in vehicles in the area, but only a few were seen helping to dig up the rubble.

There were few signs of heavy equipment – only a tractor was seen being transported. Ambulances circulated, but little other aid to the living was evident. A 6-year-old boy in Gayan cried as he said his parents, two sisters and a brother were all dead. He had fled the ruins of his own home and taken refuge with his neighbors.

Afghans wait to receive aid in quake-hit area of ​​Gayan
Afghans wait to receive aid in an earthquake-affected area in Gayan, Afghanistan, June 23, 2022.

ALI KARA / REUTERS


In Paktika province, 21-year-old Zaitullah Ghurziwal told AFP: “There are no blankets, no tents… there is no shelter. Our entire water distribution system is destroyed. There is literally nothing to eat.”

Many international aid agencies withdrew from Afghanistan when the Taliban took power last August. Those who remain are struggling to bring medical supplies, food and tents to the remote quake-hit area. UN agencies are also facing a $3 billion funding shortfall for Afghanistan this year.

Germany, Norway and several other countries announced that they would send earthquake relief, but stressed that they would only work through UN agencies, not the Taliban, which no government has yet officially recognized. Nations have asked the Taliban to first address human rights issues, particularly the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

The International Rescue Committee has emergency health teams in the two provinces to provide essential first aid and said it is providing cash support to families who lost their homes and livelihoods in the earthquake. The organization, which has operated in Afghanistan since 1988, is calling for an international roadmap to free up Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves.

The Taliban’s takeover of the country last year, as the US prepared to withdraw its troops, prompted the Biden administration to freeze some $9.5 billion the Afghan central bank has in US banks, hampering the new rulers’ efforts. to pay civil servants and import goods.

Trucks of food and other necessities arrived from Pakistan, and planes full of humanitarian aid landed from Iran and Qatar. India sent humanitarian aid and a technical team to Kabul to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. India says its aid will be delivered to a UN agency on the ground and the Afghan Red Crescent.

In Paktika province, the earthquake shook a region of deep poverty, where residents make a living in the few fertile areas between the rugged mountains.

There are projections, cited by the UN and others, that poverty rates could reach 97% of the population and unemployment to 40% this year.

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