GAYAN, Afghanistan ( Associated Press) — The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan continues to rise, rising to 1,150 people, leaving dozens more injured after brick and stone houses turned to rubble, the state said on Friday. According to the latest figures published in the media.
The country of 38 million residents was already facing an economic crisis that has plunged millions into poverty, with more than a million children at risk of severe malnutrition.
Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake devastated people overnight, leaving thousands of survivors unable to find shelter, underscoring the country’s growing needs. Afghanistan remains outside the international monetary system and aid agencies have to pay local workers with hand-distributed bags of cash as other nations refuse to deal directly with the Taliban.
Organizations such as the local Red Crescent or the World Food Program have intervened to help the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency items, such as tarps and sleeping mats in Paktika province, where the epicenter of the earthquake was recorded. , and in the neighboring Jost area.
But residents appear largely alone in dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy, as the new Taliban government and the international community scramble to help them. The poor condition of the mountain roads leading to the most affected areas has been made worse by the earthquake and rains. Villagers are burying their dead and searching for survivors with their bare hands.
The Taliban director of the state news agency, Bakhtar, said on Friday that the death toll had risen to 1,150 from previous reports of 1,000. According to Abdul Wahid Ryan, at least 1,600 more people were injured.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the death toll at 770.
It was unclear how the calculations were made, given the difficulties in accessing the area and communicating with affected cities. Any figure would make the quake the deadliest ever recorded in the country in the past two decades.
State media reported that nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. In Gyan district, at least 1,000 homes were damaged, while another 800 were in Spera district of Khost province.
Although modern buildings in other parts of the world withstand earthquakes of magnitude 6, Afghan mud-brick buildings and landslide-prone mountains make earthquakes even more dangerous.
The roads are so difficult to reach that it takes a full day to reach some villages in the Gayan district from the capital Kabul, even though they are only 175 kilometers (110 mi) away.
In villages where Associated Press reporters searched for hours on Thursday, families who had spent the previous night in the rain were pulling driftwood from collapsed roofs and removing stones by hand to try to locate their loved ones. Were. Taliban fighters were moving in vehicles, but only a few were seen helping clear the debris.
There was little indication of the presence of heavy machinery: only one bulldozer transport was seen. A few ambulances were operated, but the survivors had no other help. A six-year-old boy from Gian cried as he described how his parents, two sisters and brother had died. He escaped from the ruins of his own house and took refuge with his neighbours.
Several international aid federations left the country when the Taliban seized power last August. Those who survive are struggling to bring medical supplies, food and tents to the remote earthquake-hit region using treacherous mountain roads. UN agencies are also facing a $3 billion shortfall this year to fund their work in the country.
Germany and Norway, among other countries, announced that they would send aid to those affected, but stressed that they would only work with UN agencies, not the Taliban, whose government is yet to be recognized by the international community. is not found. Countries require the group to address human rights issues, primarily the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.
The International Rescue Committee has emergency health teams in the two provinces to provide needed aid and said it is distributing cash to families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the earthquake. The NGO, which has been in Afghanistan since 1988, called for an international effort to free up the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
The Taliban’s rise to power last year, while the United States was preparing to withdraw its troops, prompted President Joe Biden’s government to freeze nearly $9.5 billion in US financial institutions from the Afghan central bank. was near, which makes it difficult. Efforts of the new rulers to pay the officials and import the goods.
Afghanistan received food and other basic items in trucks from Pakistan and planes with humanitarian aid from Iran and Qatar. India has sent humanitarian aid and a technical team to Kabul to coordinate the distribution of aid, which it says will deliver to a UN agency on the ground and the Afghan Red Crescent.
In Paktika province, the earthquake affected a very poor area, where residents live in some fertile areas among arid mountains.
According to estimates cited by the United Nations, this year the poverty rate could reach 97% of the population, and unemployment could reach 40%.
Associated Press writers Rahim Faiz in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Aya Batrawi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.