The death toll from a devastating earthquake in Afghanistan continued to climb days after it turned brick and stone homes into rubble, killing 1,150 people and wounding scores more, according to the latest figures carried in state media on Friday.
The country of 38 million people was already in the midst of a spiraling economic crisis that had plunged millions deep into poverty with over a million children at risk of severe malnutrition.
The magnitude 6 quake has left thousands without shelter. State media reported that close to 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in Wednesday’s earthquake.
Aid organizations like the local Red Crescent and World Food Program have stepped in to assist the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency needs like tents and sleeping mats in Paktika province, the epicenter of the earthquake, and neighboring Khost province.
Still, residents appeared to be largely on their own to deal with the aftermath as their new Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggle to bring in help. Villagers have been burying their dead and digging through the rubble by hand in search of survivors.
The Taliban director of the state-run Bakhtar News Agency said Friday the death toll had risen to 1,150 people from previous reports of 1,000 killed. 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 people.
It’s not clear how death toll counts are being reached, given the difficulties of accessing and communicating with the impacted villages. Either grim toll would make the quake Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades.
In the district of Gayan, at least 1,000 homes were damaged by the earthquake. Another 800 homes in the Spera district of Khost province were also damaged. While modern buildings withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s mud-brick homes and landslide-prone mountains make such quakes more dangerous.
In villages across Gayan district, toured by Associated Press journalists for hours Thursday, families who had spent the previous rainy night out in the open lifted pieces of timber of collapsed roofs and pulled away stones by hand, looking for missing loved ones. Taliban fighters circulated in vehicles in the area, but only a few were seen helping dig through the rubble.
There was little sign of heavy equipment — only one bulldozer was spotted being transported. Ambulances circulated, but little other help to the living was evident.
Many international aid agencies withdrew from Afghanistan when the Taliban seized power last August. Those that remain are scrambling to get medical supplies, food and tents to the remote quake-struck area, using shoddy mountain roads made worse by damage and rains. U.N. agencies are also facing a $3 billion funding shortfall for Afghanistan this year.
Germany, Norway and several other countries announced they were sending aid for the quake, but underscored that they would work only through U.N. agencies, not with the Taliban, which no government has officially recognized as of yet.
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Source:: Headlines News4jax
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