GAYAN, Afghanistan ( Associated Press) – Nahim Gul’s stone and mud house fell on it when the ground shook this week’s earthquake in Afghanistan.
In search of her father and two sisters, Gul came out of the rubble in the dark of morning and was dying in the dust. He does not know how many hours he spent digging before seeing their bodies under the ruins. All three were dead.
Now, days after a magnitude 6 earthquake devastated a remote region of southeastern Afghanistan and killed at least 1,150 people, Gul sees destruction and little help everywhere, according to official estimates. His nephews were also killed in the earthquake, crushed by the walls of their house.
The United Nations put the death toll at 770 but warned that the number could rise.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to us or how we’re going to restart our lives,” Gul told the Associated Press on Sunday.
This fear is shared by thousands of affected people in the poor villages where the earthquake’s damage was felt most intensely—in Paktika and Khost provinces, along the rugged mountains along the Pakistani border.
Those who could barely survive earlier have now lost everything. Many people, yet to be seen by aid groups or officials, are struggling to reach an area surrounded by damaged roads – some impassable by avalanches.
Aware of its financial limitations, the Taliban government has sought foreign aid and called on Washington on Saturday to free up billions of dollars of Afghan currency reserves. The United Nations and several international aid groups, in addition to various countries, have mobilized to help.
China on Saturday pledged nearly 7.5 million in emergency humanitarian aid to countries including Iran, Pakistan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, joining the shipment of urgently needed tents, towels, bedding and other supplies in the region.
UN Deputy Special Representative Ramiz Alkabarov visited Paktika province on Saturday to assess the damage and distribute food, medicine and tents. UN helicopters carrying bread, flour, rice and blankets are reaching the affected areas.