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Afghanistan quake kills 1,000, survivors dig up by hand

GAYAN, Afghanistan — Survivors on Thursday dug by hand through villages in eastern Afghanistan reduced to rubble by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people as the Taliban and the international community protested before their Takeover fled, trying to help the victims of the disaster.

In the hard-hit Gayan district of Paktika province, villagers stood on the mud bricks that were once a home there. Others walked cautiously down dirty alleyways, clinging to damaged walls with exposed wooden beams to find their way.

The quake was the deadliest to hit Afghanistan in two decades, and officials said the number could rise. An estimated 1,500 others were reported injured, the state news agency said.

The disaster caused by the magnitude 6 quake has brought even more misery to a country where millions face increasing hunger, poverty and health care collapses since the Taliban took power nearly 10 months ago in the wake of the US and NATO withdrawal have regained. The takeover resulted in a cutting off of vital international funding and most of the world has shunned the Taliban government.

How – and whether the Taliban will allow it – the world can provide aid remains a question, while rescuers without heavy equipment are digging through rubble with their bare hands.

A convoy of trucks carrying supplies including tents, blankets and emergency medicine for Afghanistan's earthquake-stricken areas prepare to depart for Afghanistan at a warehouse in Islamabad, Pakistan.
A convoy of trucks carrying supplies including tents, blankets and emergency medicine for Afghanistan’s earthquake-stricken areas prepare to depart for Afghanistan at a warehouse in Islamabad, Pakistan.
AP

“We ask the Islamic Emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,” said a survivor, who gave his name as Hakimullah. “We are with nothing and have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”

The full extent of the destruction of the villages hidden in the mountains was only slowly coming to light. The roads, which are rutted and difficult to navigate in the best of circumstances, may have suffered serious damage and landslides from recent rains made access even more difficult.

While modern buildings can withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s adobe and brick homes and landslide-prone mountains make such tremors even more dangerous.

Afghans watch the devastation caused by an earthquake in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province.
Afghans watch the devastation caused by an earthquake in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
AP

Rescue workers rushed in by helicopter, but relief efforts may be hampered by the exodus of many international aid organizations from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last August. In addition, most governments shy away from dealing directly with the Taliban.

In a sign of the confused cooperation between the Taliban and the rest of the world, the Taliban had not formally asked the UN to mobilize international search and rescue teams or procure equipment from neighboring countries to supplement the few dozen ambulances and several helicopters that were sent in by Afghan authorities, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN deputy special envoy for Afghanistan.

Still, officials from several UN agencies said the Taliban would allow them unrestricted access to the area.

A woman sits in a makeshift shelter in the village of Gyan in Paktika province, Afghanistan.
A woman sits in a makeshift shelter in the village of Gyan in Paktika province, Afghanistan.
AP

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks with food and other necessities had arrived in Paktika from Pakistan. He also said on Thursday that two planes carrying humanitarian aid arrived in the country from Iran and another from Qatar.

Obtaining more direct international aid may be more difficult: many countries, including the US, channel humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the UN and other such organizations to avoid money getting into the hands of the Taliban.

The center of the quake was in the province of Paktika, about 50 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost, according to the neighboring Pakistan Meteorological Office. Experts estimate its depth at just 6 miles. Shallow earthquakes tend to deal more damage.

Afghans walk past a destroyed house in Gyan village in Paktika province, Afghanistan.
Afghans walk past a destroyed house in Gyan village in Paktika province, Afghanistan.
AP

The death toll reported by the Bakhtar news agency matched that of a 2002 earthquake in northern Afghanistan. These are the deadliest since 1998, when an earthquake, also measuring 6.1, and subsequent shaking killed at least 4,500 people in the remote northeast.

Wednesday’s quake struck a landslide-prone region with many older, weaker buildings.

Men stood atop a former mud house in the Speray district of neighboring Khost province, which was also badly damaged. The tremor had torn open its wooden beams. People sat outside under a makeshift tent made from a blanket that blew in the wind.

Afghans evacuate people wounded in an earthquake in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan.
Afghans evacuate people wounded in an earthquake in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan.
AP

Survivors quickly prepared the district’s dead, including children and an infant, for burial. Officials fear more bodies will be found in the coming days.

“It is difficult to gather all the accurate information because it is a mountainous area,” said Sultan Mahmood, the Speray district chief. “The information that we have, we have gathered from the residents of these areas.”

https://nypost.com/2022/06/23/afghanistan-quake-kills-1000-survivors-dig-out-by-hand/ Afghanistan quake kills 1,000, survivors dig up by hand

JACLYN DIAZ

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