Afghan earthquake survivors dig by hand as rescuers struggle to reach area | Global development

Organized rescue efforts struggle to reach the site of an earthquake in Afghanistan that has killed more than 1,000 people, as survivors dig through the rubble by hand to find those still missing.

In the hard-hit Gayan district of Paktika province, villagers stood on mud bricks that were once a house. Others carefully walked through dirt alleys, grasping at damaged walls with exposed wooden beams to make their way.

The earthquake was the deadliest in Afghanistan in two decades and officials said the death toll could rise. An estimated 1,500 other people were injured, the state news agency said.

The earthquake occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning in an area near the border with Pakistan. Rescue efforts have been complicated by the fact that many countries have suspended or reduced aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban took power last year.

How, and if, the Taliban will allow the world to offer help was left in question as rescuers without heavy equipment dug through the rubble as best they could.

In a sign of the confused workings 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 obtain teams from neighboring countries to supplement the few dozen ambulances and several helicopters. sent by the Afghan authorities, said Ramiz Alakbarov, UN deputy special representative in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan earthquake survivors ask for help – video

Rescue efforts have been further hampered by poor rural roads and recent heavy rain and hail.

“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 we have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”

The full extent of the destruction among the villages hidden in the mountains was slow to come to light. However, officials from various UN agencies said the Taliban were allowing full access to the area.

The UN said its World Food Program (WFP) was sending food and logistics equipment to the affected areas, with the aim of initially supporting 3,000 households.

“The Afghan people are already facing an unprecedented crisis after decades of conflict, severe drought and economic recession,” said Gordon Craig, WFP’s deputy country director for Afghanistan. “The earthquake will only add to the already massive humanitarian needs they endure on a daily basis.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that eight truckloads of food and other necessities from Pakistan had arrived in Paktika. He also said on Thursday that two humanitarian aid planes from Iran and one from Qatar had arrived in Afghanistan.

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However, other Taliban officials stressed the difficulties they were having in expanding rescue efforts.

Gholam Ghaos Naseri, the Taliban’s deputy minister for natural disaster management, said: “We have sent dozens of people to rescue people from under the rubble, but they are not enough. Iran has promised us help and its rescue teams are on their way to the area.

“We call on the international humanitarian community, NGOs and humanitarian agencies not to leave our people alone at this terrible time. Help our people. For now, we need things like food, tents, clothing, and medicine.

“We have sent dozens of people to rescue people from under the rubble, but it is not enough. Iran has promised us help and its rescue teams are on their way to the area. We call for international humanitarian aid.”

Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, spokesman for the Taliban’s top military commander in Paktika, told Reuters: “We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we are trying to get updates,” referring to telephone networks.

Describing the rescue efforts in Paktika, a volunteer, Faiz Muhammad Sameem, 36, said: “Ambulances, helicopters and motorcycles are all involved in the relief, but the hospital does not have enough facilities, first aid was provided in Hospital.

“It is a horrible scene. There were people who lost all their relatives. Some have lost 10 members of their family or some people have lost entire families.

“I have seen a five-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of his 13-member family. I don’t know how he will survive it or if he knows what he has lost. He is unbearable.

However, getting more direct international aid can be difficult: Many countries, including the US, channel humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the UN and other similar organizations to avoid putting money in the hands of the Taliban.

But in a news bulletin on Thursday, Afghanistan’s state television acknowledged that US President Joe Biden, his longtime foe, offered his condolences over the earthquake and promised help.

Biden ordered Wednesday that “USAid and other federal government partners evaluate U.S. response options to help those most affected,” a White House statement said.

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