Death toll from Afghan earthquake likely to rise as Taliban seeks help for nation “already on the brink”

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers were asking for all the international help they could get on the Thursday after the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people in the country’s mountainous east. Wednesday’s quake was the deadliest earthquake to hit the country in two decades.

As CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports, orderly lines of men are preparing rows of graves for victims in AfghanistanPaktika province. The solemn work was in stark contrast to the frantic efforts of the previous day, when rescuers were forced to dig with their bare hands in a desperate search for survivors.

Poor infrastructure, with few roads to the remote region, meant that many of the wounded had to be transported by helicopter. At least 1,500 people were injured, many left fighting for their lives.

earthquake in afghanistan
Afghan men and a boy stand near the bodies of people killed in an earthquake in Gayan village, Paktika province, Afghanistan, June 23, 2022.

Ebrahim Noroozi/AP


Witness Shabir said “there was a crash and the bed started to shake” when the earthquake struck at around 1:30 am on Wednesday, as people slept in villages across the region. “I’m sure seven or nine people in my family who were in the same room as me are dead.”

Speaking to CBS News by phone on Wednesday, Juma Khan, 28, who lives in the Gayan district of Paktika, who has seen some of the worst damage, said he was also “suddenly woken up” around 1:30 a.m. and quickly realized it. it was an earthquake.

“I’ve never felt such a massive earthquake in my entire life,” he told CBS News. “I jumped out of my room and ran into my brother’s room. He collapsed on top of them, and I found his wife dead while my brother and their three children were wounded under the rubble. It took eight hours to get them out of the rubble.”

“In our village, most houses collapsed, dozens were killed and dozens more were injured on impact,” Khan said. “People are digging around the rubble with their bare hands to desperately find those who are still alive. Taliban government helicopters transport some of the seriously injured, but the Taliban lack the resources and equipment to conduct an effective search and rescue mission. “

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Taliban officials and residents examine damage to homes in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province after a major earthquake struck on June 22, 2022, in an image by Afghanistan’s state-run Bakhtar news agency.

Bakhtar news agency


As D’Agata reports, the earthquake hit one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest countries on the planet.

Decades of conflict, government corruption and now crippling sanctions against the Taliban regime have brought Afghanistan to its knees and left the Islamic government begging the international community for help.

Many aid groups fled the country after the Taliban regained control in August 2021.

“It’s in a country that is already on the edge of a cliff,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He said that even before the earthquake, Afghanistan was mired in “almost a famine situation. So people really are already hanging by a thread.”

As the death toll mounts, for the thousands of survivors left homeless by the earthquake and now facing an even more imminent threat of famine, the suffering is just beginning.

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