GAYAN, Afghanistan ( Associated Press) – An aftershock claimed more lives on Friday and threatened to pile up more misery in an area of eastern Afghanistan plagued by a powerful earthquake that killed 1,150 people this week, according to state media has.
Among the dead from Wednesday’s earthquake were 6 children, 121 children, but that figure is expected to rise, said Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF’s representative in Afghanistan. He said nearly 70 children were injured.
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That earthquake hit a remote, mountainous region already struggling with staggering poverty at a time when the country as a whole is plunging deeper into an economic crisis after many countries withdrew critical funding and development aid in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Pakistan’s meteorological department reported on Friday that a new magnitude 4.2 earthquake had been reported, which, according to the state-run Bakhtar News Agency, claimed five more lives in the hard-hit Gayan district and injured 11 people.
International aid has kept the country afloat, and its withdrawal has left millions unable to afford food and has already strained struggling medical facilities. Nearly half of the 38 million population is unable to provide for their basic food needs, while some civil servants, such as doctors, nurses and teachers, have not been paid for months because the Taliban government does not have access to frozen foreign reserves. Salary delays continue throughout the public sector.
Afghanistan’s international isolation also complicates relief efforts as fewer aid organizations have a presence in the country, and international sanctions on Afghan banks make it difficult to send cash into the country. Despite exemptions from the U.S. Treasury Department that allow money to be sent to aid groups, banks are reluctant to handle such transactions for fear of violating rules anyway.
Aid groups regret that they have to pay local staff with bags of cash, be physically carried into the country by their staff and then distributed personally by the provinces. The process is expensive, with roadside fees for transportation and security.
Aid agencies such as the local Red Crescent and UN agencies such as the World Food Program have sent food, tents, sleeping mats and other necessities to families in Paktika province, the epicenter of the earthquake, and neighboring Khost province. Several countries have sent cargo planes of aid.
Yet it appears that residents were largely on their own to deal with the aftermath while their new Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggled to bring in aid. The sloppy mountain roads leading to the affected areas were exacerbated by damage and rain.
Thousands of houses of stone and mud crumbled in the quake, which struck at night and often trapped entire families in the rubble. Many of those who survived spent the first night outside in a cold rain. Since then, villagers have been burying their dead and digging through the rubble by hand in search of survivors.
The Taliban director of the Bakhtar news agency said on Friday that the death toll from the first earthquake had risen to 1,150 people. Abdul Wahid Rayan said at least 1,600 people were injured.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has put the death toll at 770.
It is not clear how fatalities are achieved, given the difficulties in communicating access to and with the towns concerned. Any grim toll would make the earthquake in Afghanistan the deadliest in two decades.
State media reported that nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged, including at least 1,000 in Gayan. While modern buildings elsewhere can withstand earthquakes of 6, Afghanistan’s mud brick houses and landslide – prone mountains make such earthquakes more dangerous.
In towns across the Gayan district, which was toured by Associated Press journalists for hours on Thursday, families who had spent the previous rainy night in the open picked up pieces of wood from collapsed roofs and pulled stones away by hand, searching for missing loved ones. . Taliban fighters circulated in vehicles in the area, but only a few were seen helping them dig through the rubble.
There was little sign of heavy equipment – only one bulldozer was noticed being transported. Ambulances circulated, but little other help to the living was evident. One 6-year-old boy in Gayan cried when he said his parents, two sisters and a brother were all dead. He fled from the ruins of his own house and took refuge with the neighbors.
Afghanistan’s economy was dependent on international donor support and assistance even before the Taliban took power last August as the US and its NATO allies withdrew their forces, ending a 20-year war that drove out the same insurgents of power. has in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Aid groups still operating in Afghanistan are now scrambling to find medical supplies, food and tents in the remote quake-stricken area, but UN agencies face a $ 3 billion funding shortfall this year.
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Trucks with food and other supplies arrived from Pakistan, and planes full of humanitarian aid landed from Iran, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. India has sent a technical team to the capital, Kabul, to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid. India has said its aid will be handed over to a UN agency on the ground and the Afghan Red Crescent Society.
Other countries that offered aid made an effort to emphasize that they would only work through UN agencies, not with the Taliban, which no government has so far officially recognized. Some have called on the Taliban to address human rights issues first, especially the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.
Associated Press authors Rahim Faiez in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.