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June 24, 2022

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Afghan quake aid trickles in but rescue efforts hampered

Aid began arriving yesterday in a remote part of Afghanistan where an earthquake killed 1,000 people but poor communications and a lack of proper roads are hampering relief efforts in a country already grappling with a humanitarian crisis.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck early on Wednesday about 160 kilometers southeast of Kabul, in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the Pakistan border.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we trying to get updates,” Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika Province, said, referring to telephone networks.

The temblor killed some 1,000 people and injured 1,500, he said. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed.

The toll makes it Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in two decades, according to US government data.

About 1,000 people had been rescued from various areas by yesterday morning, Sharafat Zaman, a spokesperson for the health ministry said. “Aid has arrived to the area and it is continuing but more is needed.”

The town of Gayan, close to the epicenter, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed.

The town, with only the most basic roads, was bustling with Taliban soldiers and ambulances as a helicopter bringing in relief supplies landed nearby, whipping up huge swirls of dust. About 300 people sat on the ground waiting for supplies.

The rescue operation will be a major test for the hard-line Islamist Taliban, who took over last August as United States-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war.

The humanitarian situation had worsened alarmingly since the Taliban takeover, aid officials say, with the country cut off from much global assistance because of sanctions.

Afghanistan’s economy has all but collapsed, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an appeal to aid donors in late March.

Drought has undermined food production and 9 million Afghans face famine. Some families have been forced to selling children and organs to survive, he said.

The United Nations said that its World Food Program was sending food and logistics equipment to affected areas, with the aim of initially supporting 3,000 households.

“The Afghan people are already facing an unprecedented crisis following decades of conflict, severe drought and an economic downturn,” said Gordon Craig, WFP deputy country director. “The earthquake will only add to the already massive humanitarian needs they endure daily.”


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