Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Earthquake death toll rises to 1,150 after tremors in Afghanistan

Earthquake tremors hit a hard-hit region of eastern Afghanistan on Friday, two days after the quake that destroyed hundreds of mud-brick homes and killed 1,150 people, according to state media.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department reported a magnitude 4.2 earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan, the state-run Bakhtar news agency reported, killing five more people and injuring 11 in hard-hit Gayan district.

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The country of 38 million people was already in the midst of a growing economic crisis that put millions of children at risk of severe malnutrition.

On Wednesday, a magnitude 6 earthquake struck while people were sleeping, leaving thousands without shelter and focused attention on the country’s complex needs.

Afghanistan is cut off from the international monetary system, and aid groups have to pay local workers with bags of cash hand-delivered as the nation refuses to deal directly with the Taliban.

Aid organizations such as the local Red Crescent and World Food Program have stepped in to help the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency needs such as tents and sleeping mats in Paktika province, the epicenter of the earthquake and neighboring Khost province.

Nevertheless, their new Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggle to bring in help as residents largely reveal themselves to deal with it afterwards.

The mountain roads leading to the affected areas have been made worse by the damage and rain. Villagers are burying their dead and digging 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, compared to previous reports of 1,000 dead. Abdul Wahid Ryan said at least 1,600 people were injured.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the death toll at 770.

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It is not clear how the death toll is reaching given the difficulties of reaching and contacting the affected villages. Any severe earthquake would make Afghanistan the deadliest in two decades.

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

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

Roads in the area are so poorly paved and difficult to navigate that some villages in Guyan district take a full day to reach from Kabul, although it is only 175 kilometers (110 mi away).

In villages in the Gian district, Associated Press reporters visited for hours on Thursday, searching for missing loved ones from families who had spent the previous rainy night out in the open, picking up pieces of wood from collapsed roofs and hand-pulling stones. Taliban fighters roamed the area in vehicles, but only a few were seen helping to dig up the rubble.

There was little sign of heavy equipment – only a bulldozer was being transported. Ambulances were operated, but little help for a living was evident.

A 6 year old boy in Gyan cried saying that his parents, two sisters and a brother were all dead. He had fled the ruins of his own house and took refuge with the neighbours.

When the Taliban seized power last August, many international aid agencies withdrew from Afghanistan. Those who survive are scrambling to find medical supplies, food and tents in a remote earthquake-prone area.

UN agencies are also facing a $3 billion funding shortfall for Afghanistan this year. Germany, Norway and several other countries announced that they were sending aid for the earthquake, but insisted that they would only work through UN agencies, not with the Taliban, which no government has yet approved. Not officially recognized.

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The nations have called on the Taliban to first address human rights concerns, chief among them the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

The International Rescue Committee has emergency health teams in two provinces to provide essential first aid and said it is providing cash assistance to families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the earthquake.

The organization, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 1988, is seeking an international roadmap for the eventual release of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves.

The country’s takeover of the Taliban last year as the US prepares to withdraw its troops prompted the Biden administration to freeze nearly $9.5 billion in US banks held by the Afghan central bank, allowing The new rulers’ efforts to pay civil servants and import goods were hampered.

Trucks of food and other necessities arrived from Pakistan, and planes loaded with humanitarian aid landed from Iran and Qatar.

A technical team in India’s humanitarian relief and capital, Kabul, to coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid. India says its aid will be handed over to a UN agency on the ground and the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

In the province of Paktika, the earthquake shook an area of ​​deep poverty, with residents living in some fertile areas among rough mountains.

Estimates cited by the United Nations and others suggest the poverty rate could rise to 97 percent and unemployment to 40 percent this year.

Read more:

Afghanistan ends search for survivors of deadly earthquake

UN says Taliban interfering with aid, opposes cash plan

US ‘saddened’ by Afghan earthquake, looking for aid

Nation World News Desk
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