The lifeguards tried this Thursday in the midst of heavy rains to reach remote areas of eastern Afghanistan, where a powerful earthquake left at least a thousand dead and thousands homeless.
The earthquake Wednesday’s magnitude 5.9 toppled cell phone towers and power lines, triggering rock and mudslides that blocked mountain roads.
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Entire villages were razed to the ground in the most affected districts. “When I left my house everything was quiet, people were buried under their houses. There is nothing left here,” said Zaitullah Ghurziwal, 21.
The disaster poses a logistical challenge for the new Taliban government of Afghanistanisolated internationally for its hardline Islamist regime that discriminates against women and girls in particular.
“It is very difficult to get information from the ground because of the poor network,” Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, information officer for the hard-hit province of Paktika, told AFP on Thursday.
He also explained that access is difficult since “the area was affected last night by floods caused by heavy rains,” which also caused landslides that slow down rescue efforts and damaged telephone and power lines.
When the Taliban took power in August, international aid to the country, which relies heavily on it, was cut off. Even before the earthquakeUnited Nations warned of a humanitarian crisis that threatens the entire population.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the organization is “fully mobilized” and will deploy health teams and supply medicine and food to the quake zone.
– ‘Like a tsunami’ –
In the Bermal district, an area of hard-to-reach villages, survivors are trying to dig graves to bury the dead.
“We didn’t even have a shovel to dig … so we used a tractor. We buried 60 people yesterday and there are 30 more to bury. People are working non-stop,” Ghurziwal said.
“There are no blankets, there are no tents, there are no shelters. Our entire water distribution system is destroyed. Everything is devastated, houses are destroyed. There is literally nothing to eat,” he added.
Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Thursday on Twitter that aid flights had arrived from Qatar and Iran. Pakistan meanwhile sent truckloads of tents, medical supplies and food across the land border.
The earthquake it hit areas already suffering from the effects of heavy rains and triggered rockfalls and landslides that swept away small houses built on the mountainside.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for AfghanistanRamiz Alakbarov told reporters that some 2,000 houses were probably destroyed, many of them in an area where families average more than 20 members.
Dozens of survivors were taken to hospital, including Bibi Hawa, a 55-year-old woman from Gayan district, one of the worst affected, who lost 15 members of her family.
“Seven died who were in one room, five in another and three in another,” he said from his bed, his face full of tears. “Now I am alone, I have no one,” she said.
Afghanistan only a very limited number of helicopters and planes are available for the tasks of bailing out.
“The government is working within its capabilities,” Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official, said on Twitter. “We hope that the international community and aid agencies will also help our people in this desperate situation,” he added.
Afghanistan suffer frequently earthquakesespecially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, located at the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
The earthquake deadliest in recent history Afghanistan (5,000 dead) occurred in May 1998 in the northeastern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.