Afghanistan earthquake: Taliban appeal for more aid as death toll rises | Afghanistan

The Taliban-led government has appealed for more international aid as it struggles to deal with a devastating earthquake in a mountainous region in the country’s east. That left more than 1,000 people dead And many wounded.

Amid an economic crisis in the war-torn country, the hardline Islamic leadership said the sanctions imposed by Western countries after the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces last year meant it was hampered in its ability to deal with Wednesday’s disaster in Khost and Paktika. counties.

The death toll rose steadily on Wednesday as news of casualties leaked from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hebatullah Akhundzada, warned it could rise further.

The quake hit areas that were already suffering from the effects of heavy rain, causing rock falls and mudslides that hampered rescue efforts.

“People are digging grave after grave,” said Muhammad Amin Hudhaifa, head of the Department of Information and Culture in Paktika, describing the ensuing excavation among the rubble to bring out the dead and injured.

Footage released by the Taliban showed residents digging a long pit to bury the dead. Hudhaifa said more than 1,500 people were injured, many of them in critical condition. “People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told reporters.

A woman in Paktika state left homeless by the earthquake tries to keep warm.
A woman in Paktika state left homeless by the earthquake tries to keep warm. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

disaster comes Afghanistan It is grappling with the severe economic crisis that has gripped it since the Taliban seized power last year, and amid rapidly growing concerns about the ability of the Taliban and international agencies to respond quickly.

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While major international agencies are still operating in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s takeover of power has led other agencies and governments to scale back assistance programs in a country where about 80% of its budget comes from foreign aid.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a senior Taliban official, said the government “appreciates and welcomes” the assistance pledged by some governments and other aid agencies such as Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross.

But the 5.9-magnitude earthquake – initially reported as 6.1, the deadliest in the country in more than 20 years – caused widespread damage and suffering that needed more help.

“Unfortunately the government is subject to sanctions, so it is not financially able to help people to the extent required,” he said.

earthquake map

“Aid needs to be increased very substantially because this is a devastating earthquake that hasn’t happened in decades.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the global agency was “fully mobilized” to help, with UN officials confirming the deployment of health teams, supplies of medicine, food, trauma kits and emergency shelter to the quake zone.

“The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide emergency EU assistance to affected people and communities,” Thomas Nicholson, the EU’s special envoy for Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter.

Pakistan, where officials said one person was killed in the quake, said it would send emergency aid – including tents – across the border.

MSF said its teams in Khost and the Afghan capital, Kabul, were communicating with the Taliban government and other organizations about providing support.

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MSF Afghanistan: “We know that many healthcare facilities are under-resourced, and a natural disaster like this will push those in the affected area to their limits” He said in a tweet.

The The British Red Cross said Its teams were organizing the dispatch of food, medicine, housing, water and temporary shelter to the area near the border with Pakistan.

An ambulance transports earthquake victims to a hospital in Paktika state.
An ambulance transports earthquake victims to a hospital in Paktika state. Photo: Environmental Protection Agency

The catastrophe poses a major challenge to the Taliban, who have largely isolated the country as a result of their hard-line Islamist policies – particularly the subjugation of women and girls.

Even before the Taliban seized power, emergency response teams in Afghanistan were exhausted to deal with the natural disasters that frequently hit the country.

But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters remaining since the Taliban’s return to power, any immediate response to the latest disaster will be even more limited.

Karim Niazay was in the provincial capital and immediately returned to find his village destroyed and 22 members of his extended family killed.

“I was away from my family who lives in a remote village in Ji’an District. I went there as soon as I found a car early in the morning,” he told the Guardian.

The whole village is buried. Those who managed to get out before everything fell were able to get the bodies of their loved ones out from under the rubble. Bodies were all wrapped in blankets.

“I lost 22 members of my country [extended family] Including my sister and three of my brothers. More than 70 people died in the village.”

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One survivor, Arup Khan, 22, who was pulled from a collapsed guest house, described the moment the earthquake struck. “It was a horrible situation. There were screams everywhere. My children and my family were under the mud.”

The White House said the United States, whose forces helped topple the initial Taliban regime and remained in Afghanistan for two decades until Washington pulled them out last year, was “deeply saddened” by the earthquake.

“President Biden is monitoring developments and has directed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other federal government partners to evaluate US response options to assist those most affected,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

Wednesday’s quake occurred at about 1.30 a.m. at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles), about 47 kilometers southwest of Khost, according to the US Geological Survey.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, 480 km from the epicenter in Khost.

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