Afghanistan Live Updates: Rescuers Search for Survivors After Earthquake Kills 1,000, Officials Say

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-06-23 12:05:16 : The New York Times

Credit…Ali Khara/Reuters

Hopes of finding more survivors of Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in decades were waning on Thursday, as officials said rescue efforts were nearing completion in the mountainous and remote areas hit hardest by the temblor.

Attention was turning to providing aid to the injured and shelter to those left homeless by a disaster that is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people.

The difficult terrain and the deep poverty in the region in Afghanistan’s southeast, along the border of Pakistan, posed a particular challenge to aid efforts. Some residents live in homes of clay and straw, and entire villages were believed to have been nearly wiped out in the quake. Thousands spent the night in unseasonable cold, some battered by rain, wind and even snow.

The worst damage appeared to be in Paktika Province, although the center of the 5.9-magnitude earthquake was about 28 miles to the southwest, the United States Geological Survey said.

“Relief agencies’ assistance included health assistance, food, tents, and blankets, but the crisis is widespread in the area and is not enough,” said Sanaullah Masoum, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Paktika. “We call on the aid agencies to provide more food, health, and humanitarian assistance.”

Some supplies had arrived in the country, the Taliban government said, including by air from Iran and Qatar and by land from Pakistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban government, said that eight truckloads of cargo from Pakistan had been delivered to the affected areas, and that further supplies had reached Kabul, the capital, and would soon be delivered to the quake zone.

The area is far from many clinics or hospitals that could help the wounded. The Afghan Defense Ministry sent seven helicopters and a medical team to transport the wounded to military and civilian hospitals, the state news agency reported.

Mr. Masoum said that the rescue operation in Paktika ended on Wednesday evening. Local authorities in Afghanistan have told international organizations that their search and rescue efforts in the areas were 90 percent complete, and aid groups were focusing on providing shelter and care for survivors, said Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, head of the Afghanistan office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

On Thursday, temperatures were rapidly rising, raising concerns that people who suffered through a frigid night would soon be left out in the scorching heat, Ms. Carlsen said. Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation could bring diseases in the coming days and weeks, compounding the crisis, she said.

“It’s layers and layers of aggravating factors,” she said. “After the immediate lifesaving response, these communities will take a long time to recover. There was already very high vulnerability in the area.”

Telephone and internet coverage is poor or nonexistent in some parts of the region, making it difficult to assess the damage and the exact death toll. Ramiz Alakbarov, a deputy special representative for the United Nations, said on Wednesday that nearly 2,000 homes were destroyed.

Mohammad Almas, the head of aid and appeals at Qamar, a charity active in the area, said that because the earthquake hit at night, most people were inside sleeping. More than 25 villages were almost destroyed, including when a landslide after the earthquake wiped one out, he said. In one village, he added, a home collapsed on 18 members of a family, leaving only one child alive.

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