After a strong earthquake slammed a mountainous border region of Afghanistan, killing at least 1,000 people, desperate rescuers raced against time and torrential rain on Thursday to retrieve survivors from the ruins.
The rocky east, where residents already struggle to make ends meet in the midst of a humanitarian crisis made worse since the Taliban’s takeover in August, was hardest hit by the 5.9-magnitude earthquake.
Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in hard-hit Paktika, said that “people are digging grave after grave” and added that at least 1,000 people have killed in only that province.
More than 1,500 individuals, many of them gravely, were hurt, he claimed.
He informed reporters, “People are still under the rubble.”
According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the international organisation has “completely mobilised” to provide assistance, sending medical personnel, food, medicine, trauma kits, and emergency shelter to the earthquake zone.
The death toll rapidly increased on Wednesday as reports of victims came in from remote mountain areas. The nation’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned that the death toll will probably continue to rise.
Rockfalls and mudslides that hindered rescue efforts were caused by the earthquake that slammed areas already affected by severe rain.
Arup Khan, 22, who is currently receiving medical attention in Sharan, the provincial centre of Paktika, stated, “It was a dreadful circumstance.
“Cries could be heard everywhere. My family and the kids were buried in the muck.”
The Tsunami Effect
Mohammad Yahya Wiar, director of Sharan Hospital, said they were making every effort to treat everyone.
He told AFP that “our country is poor and lacks resources.” “It’s a humanitarian emergency. Similar to a tsunami, it.”
Numerous severely damaged homes in rural places could be seen in photos and videos shared on social media. Nearly 2,000 homes are probably damaged, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan.
The Taliban posted video showing residents of one town creating a lengthy trench to bury the dead, who according to Islamic law must be buried towards Mecca.
The catastrophe presents a significant challenge for the Taliban, whose strict islamist policies, particularly the enslavement of women and girls, have entirely isolated the nation.
Afghanistan’s emergency response services were already overworked from dealing with the country’s numerous natural disasters before the Taliban took control.
However, any rapid response to the most recent calamity is further constrained because there are now so few airworthy aeroplanes and helicopters left since they regained control.
Senior Taliban official Anas Haqqani tweeted, “The government is operating within its capacity.”
We sincerely hope that the international community and assistance organisations will also assist our people in this desperate situation.
The United States was “deeply saddened” by the earthquake, the White House said. American forces were instrumental in toppling the original Taliban administration and were stationed in Afghanistan for 20 years before being withdrawn last year.
According to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, “President Biden is keeping an eye on events and has instructed USAID (US Agency for International Development) and other federal government partners to explore US response options to help those most affected.”
The European Union also made a prompt support offer.
“The EU is watching the situation and is ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency support to individuals and impacted communities,” tweeted Tomas Niklasson, the EU’s special ambassador for Afghanistan.
Pakistan, a neighbouring country whose officials reported one fatality from the earthquake, said it will send tents and other emergency supplies across the border.
Prayers For the Injured
The Hindu Kush mountain range, which is close to the meeting point of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes in Afghanistan.
When two earthquakes devastated the western region of Badghis in January, dozens of people died.
A 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2015 resulted in the deaths of more than 380 people.
In the northeastern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan in May 1998, the deadliest recent earthquake in Afghanistan killed 5,000 people.
Pope Francis sent prayers to the victims of the most recent earthquake from the Vatican.
The 85-year-old pontiff concluded his weekly audience by saying, “I express my closeness with the injured and all who were impacted.”
According to the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred early on Wednesday at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles).
Lahore, Pakistan, which is 480 kilometres from the core, reported feeling it.