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Afghan earthquake survivors without food or shelter as aid arrives

#Afghan #earthquake #survivors #food #shelter #aid #arrives

Aid poured into devastated villages in remote parts of Afghanistan on Friday, but thousands of people are still short of food, shelter and water three days after the country’s deadliest earthquake in decades.

Wednesday’s 5.9-magnitude tremor hit hardest in the harsh east along the border with Pakistan as people slept, killing more than 1,000 and leaving thousands more homeless.

Entire villages have been leveled in some of the worst-hit districts, where survivors said they were even struggling to find equipment to bury their dead.

“The tents, food and flour we received for a few days are not enough,” said Raqim Jan, 23, near the ruins of his home in Gayan district.

“At the moment it’s summer, it’s too hot. In two months winter will come and we will face great cold. If they could fix the roofs and houses that would be most helpful.”

Aftershocks continued to pound the area, driving terrified locals from the badly damaged homes they were seeking.

An aftershock killed five people early Friday, according to Maqbool Luqmanzai, director of health in Gayan district.

Aid began to filter through in some areas. AFP saw seven UN World Food Program trucks pull into the village of Wuchkai to distribute tents and emergency rations on Friday morning, 24 hours after they left Kabul.

Two MSF trucks also arrived with medical supplies.

Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, Paktika provincial information chief, said heavy rains and flooding were hampering efforts to reach those affected.

Communications were also affected as the quake brought down cell towers and power lines.

The earthquake struck areas already suffering the effects of heavy rains, causing rockfalls and mudslides that destroyed villages perched precariously on mountainsides.

Officials say nearly 10,000 homes have been destroyed, an alarming number in an area where the average household size is more than 20 people.

“Seven in one room, five in the other room, four in another and three in another were killed in my family,” Bibi Hawa told AFP from a hospital bed in Sharan, the capital of Paktika.

In Wuchkai, a cemetery on a hill overlooking the village had 11 fresh graves – all members of the same family.

More than 118,000 children were affected by the disaster, according to Save the Children.

“Many children are now most likely without clean drinking water, food and a safe place to sleep,” the international charity said.

– UN mobilized –

The catastrophe poses an enormous logistical challenge for the Taliban government, which has isolated itself from large parts of the world through the introduction of strict Islamic rule.

The aid-dependent country was stripped of most of its foreign aid after the Taliban took power last August, and ahead of Wednesday’s disaster, the United Nations warned of a humanitarian crisis threatening the entire population.

But the quake has sparked a wave of sympathy from abroad – although many are wary of how any aid is used.

“The distribution of aid will be transparent,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi told AFP, adding “many countries have supported us and stood by us”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the global organization was “fully mobilized” to help.

According to his office, the refugee agency UNHCR has sent tents, blankets and plastic sheeting; the World Food Program has provided food supplies for about 14,000; and the World Health Organization has provided 10 tons of medical supplies, enough for 5,400 surgeries.

Afghan government officials said Thursday that aid flights from Qatar and Iran have landed, while Pakistan has sent trucks with tents, medical supplies and food.

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently plague the country.

However, with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters remaining since their return to power, any immediate response to the recent disaster is further limited.

“We hope that the international community and aid organizations will also help our people in this dire situation,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in recent memory killed 5,000 people in 1998 in the northeastern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.

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