Earthquake in Afghanistan: Taliban Call for More Aid as Death Toll Rises | Afghanistan

The Taliban-led government of Afghanistan has called for more international aid as it struggles to cope with the devastating earthquake in an eastern mountainous region that left more than 1,000 dead and many more injured.

With the war-torn nation already hit by an economic crisis, the hardline Islamist leadership said sanctions imposed by Western countries following the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces last year meant it was handicapped in its ability to deal with the Wednesday disaster in Khost and Paktika provinces.

The death toll rose steadily on Wednesday as reports of casualties filtered from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely increase further.

The earthquake hit areas that were already suffering the effects of heavy rains, causing landslides and landslides that hindered relief efforts.

Describing the consequences when people dug through the rubble to recover the dead and wounded, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of Paktika’s information and culture department, said: “People are digging grave after grave.”

Footage released by the Taliban showed residents digging a long trench to bury the dead. Huzaifa said more than 1,500 people were injured, many critically. “People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told reporters.

A woman in Paktika province, left homeless by the earthquake, tries to warm up. Photograph: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The disaster comes as Afghanistan grapples with a severe economic crisis that has gripped it since the Taliban’s takeover last year, and amid rapidly growing concerns about the ability of the Taliban and international agencies to respond quickly.

While major international agencies still operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s takeover has seen other agencies and governments curtail their assistance programs in a country where about 80% of the budget came from foreign assistance.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a senior Taliban official, said the government “appreciated and welcomed” the help promised by other governments and relief agencies such as Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross.

But the 5.9 magnitude earthquake – initially reported as 6.1 magnitude and the deadliest in the country in more than 20 years – had caused such extensive damage and suffering that further help was needed.

“The government is unfortunately subject to sanctions, so it is not financially able to assist people to the extent necessary,” he said.

earthquake map

“Assistance needs to be increased to a very large extent because this is a devastating earthquake that hasn’t occurred in decades.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the global agency has “fully mobilized” to help, with UN officials confirming the deployment of health teams and supplies of medicines, food, trauma kits. and emergency shelters in the area of ​​the earthquake.

Tomas Niklasson, the European Union Special Envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and is ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to affected people and communities.”

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

Doctors Without Borders said its teams in Khost and the Afghan capital Kabul were working with the Taliban government and other organizations to provide support.

“We know that many of the health facilities have insufficient resources and a natural disaster like this will push those in the affected area to their limits,” MSF Afghanistan said in a tweet.

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

An ambulance transports the earthquake victims to hospital in Paktika province.
An ambulance transports the earthquake victims to hospital in Paktika province. Photograph: EPA

The disaster represents a huge challenge for the Taliban, who have largely isolated the country due to their uncompromising Islamic policies, especially the subjugation of women and girls.

Even before the Taliban took over power, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were busy coping with the natural disasters that frequently hit the country.

But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters left since the Taliban returned to power, any immediate response to the latest catastrophe is further limited.

Karim Nyazai was in the provincial capital and returned immediately to find his village devastated and 22 members of his extended family dead.

“I was away from my family who live in a remote village in the Gyan district. I went there as soon as I could find a car early in the morning, “he told the Guardian.

“The whole village is buried. Those who managed to get out before everything fell, managed to get the bodies of their loved ones out of the rubble. There were bodies wrapped in blankets everywhere.

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

One survivor, Arup Khan, 22, who was pulled out of a collapsed pension, described the moment the earthquake struck. “It was a horrible situation. There were shouts everywhere. The children and my family were under the mud. “

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

“President Biden is monitoring developments and has ordered USAID (US Agency for International Development) and other federal government partners to evaluate US response options to help those most affected,” he said in a statement. notes National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Wednesday’s earthquake occurred around 1:30 a.m. at a depth of 10 km (six miles), about 47 km southwest of Khost, according to the United States Geological Survey.

It was heard as far as Lahore in Pakistan, 480km from the Khost epicenter.