Published on : Modified :

A senior regional official said at least 1,000 people were killed when a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Afghanistan overnight Tuesday-Wednesday. Teams from the UN and its humanitarian partners are being deployed to help the survivors.

Rescuers were desperately trying on Thursday to help victims of the earthquake that killed at least a thousand people in southeastern Afghanistan, but their efforts were hampered by lack of resources, mountainous terrain and heavy rains. .

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.9, occurred in the early hours of Wednesday this poor and difficult to access rural region, bordering Pakistan. Already grappling with an economic and humanitarian crisis, Afghanistan is hit by a new tragedy, which constitutes a heavy challenge for the Taliban, in power since mid-August.

It is the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan in more than two decades.

At least 1,000 people have been killed and 1,500 injured in the worst affected province of Paktika alone, authorities say, fearing the toll could rise further as many remain trapped under the rubble of their collapsed homes. .

The earthquake struck in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.
The earthquake struck in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. © France 24

“It is very difficult to get information from the field because of the bad network [téléphonique]”, told AFP on Thursday the head of the information and culture department of the province of Paktika, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa.

In addition, “it is difficult to access the affected sites” especially since “the area was hit last night by floods caused by heavy rains”, he added, stressing that no new assessment was not yet available.

The heavy rains also caused landslides that slowed relief efforts and damaged telephone and power lines.

The Taliban government has called in the army, but it has few resources. Its financial resources are very limited, after the freezing of billions of assets held abroad and the abrupt halt to Western international aid, which has carried the country at arm’s length for twenty years and now only returns to dropper since the return to power of the Islamists.

International aid

Afghanistan only has a very limited number of helicopters and planes. The UN, which pointed out that at least 2,000 houses had been destroyed – each being inhabited on average by seven or eight people – also highlighted the lack of clearing equipment. A video taken on the spot by AFP shows a group of men clearing with their bare hands the debris of a completely collapsed house to release a body.

The Taliban government has said it is doing the best it can and called for help from the international community, which has so far refused to recognize it, and humanitarian organizations.

But international aid is difficult to mobilize, NGOs and UN agencies being less present on the spot than in the past since the return to power of the Taliban.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nevertheless assured that the UN was “fully mobilized” to help Afghanistan, with the ongoing deployment of first aid teams and the shipment of medicine and food. .

The population needs shelter in priority, because of the rains and the unusual cold in this season, but also food and non-food aid and assistance in water, hygiene and sanitation services, indicated the Bureau. for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (Ocha) of the United Nations.

The Taliban announced on Thursday that they had received two planes loaded with aid from Iran, and one from Qatar. Eight trucks full of food and first aid supplies from neighboring Pakistan have also arrived in Paktika province.

“Like a Tsunami”

The European Union also said on Wednesday that it was ready to “provide emergency aid”. “Deeply saddened”, the United States has announced that it is examining its humanitarian “response options”.

Severely under-equipped, the Afghan health system is also under great pressure. “Our country is poor and lacks resources. It’s a humanitarian crisis. It’s like a tsunami,” Mohammad Yahya Wiar, director of the hospital in Sharan, capital of Paktika, told AFP.

Several dozen survivors were taken to this hospital, including Bibi Hawa, a 55-year-old woman who lived in Gayan district, one of the most affected, and who lost 15 members of her family.

“Seven in one room, five in another and three in yet another were killed,” she sighs on her bed, her face contorted with tears. “Now I’m alone, I don’t have anyone anymore.”

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies at the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. These disasters can be particularly destructive due to the low resilience of rural Afghan homes.

The deadliest earthquake in the recent history of Afghanistan (5,000 dead) took place in May 1998 in the provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan (north-east).

With AFP

Leave a Reply