Afghanistan’s emergency teams are working around the clock this Thursday to reach and assist the victims of the earthquake that shook the southeastern fringe of the country early on Wednesday. More than a thousand people lost their lives due to the earthquake, according to a provisional balance that could grow due to the seriousness of the condition of many of the injured and that many of the affected areas, located in mountainous terrain, are inaccessible. Added to this is the lack of resources in the Central Asian country, ruled by the Taliban since August of last year, and the heavy rains that have hit the region in recent days. Kabul has asked the international community for help to deal with the emergency. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has stated that the organization is already mobilized and working on the ground. The Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammad Hassan announced this Thursday, after an emergency meeting at the Kabul Presidential Palace, an aid of 10 million euros (1,000 million Afghanis) for the victims.
The earthquake, of magnitude 5.9, occurred in the early hours of Wednesday in a poor rural area and difficult to access, on the border with Pakistan. In the midst of a serious economic and humanitarian crisis, the land plunged Afghanistan into a new tragedy, a tough challenge for the Taliban, 10 months after regaining power after the withdrawal of international forces led by the United States. It is the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan in two decades. More than 1,000 people have died and 1,500 have been injured in the province of Paktika, the most affected, according to the authorities. These figures would not include casualties in adjacent Jost, epicenter of the quake. Kabul fears that the death toll will increase because many people are also trapped under the rubble of their collapsed houses.
“It is very difficult to obtain information from the field because of the poor network [telefónica]”, declared this Thursday the head of the Information and Culture Department of Paktika province, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa. “It is difficult to access the affected sites,” reported Huzaifa, especially since the area has also been affected by flooding caused by heavy rains. The strong storm has caused landslides that have slowed down rescue efforts and damaged telephone lines and power lines.
The Taliban government, which has a very limited number of helicopters to participate in the emergency, has mobilized the army. However, its financial resources are very limited after the freezing of billions of assets abroad and the abrupt interruption of Western international aid, present in the last 20 years and which has only returned in a trickle since the return to power of the fundamentalists.
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The UN has reported that at least 2,000 houses had been destroyed, each of which was inhabited by around seven or eight people. The Kabul regime has stated that it is doing the best it can and has asked for help from the international community, which has so far refused to recognize it, and from humanitarian organizations. The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has assured that the UN is “fully mobilized” to help Afghanistan, with the deployment of first aid teams and the shipment of medicine and food.
The affected population urgently needs shelter, due to the rains and unusual cold this season, but also food aid, water, hygiene and sanitation, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA, in its acronym). in English). The Taliban announced this Thursday that they had received two planes loaded with aid from Iran and one from Qatar. Eight truckloads of food and first aid supplies have arrived from neighboring Pakistan in Paktika province.
The European Union said Wednesday that it is ready to “provide emergency assistance.” The United States, for its part, has declared itself “deeply saddened”, and has communicated that they are examining their humanitarian “response options”.
Seriously under-equipped, the Afghan health system is also under a lot of pressure. “Our country is poor and lacks resources. It is a humanitarian crisis; it is like a tsunami”, said Mohammad Yahya Wiar, director of the hospital in Sharan, capital of Paktika. Afghanistan is frequently shocked by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which sits at the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. These disasters can be particularly destructive due to the low resistance of rural Afghan houses.
The deadliest earthquake in the recent history of Afghanistan, with around 5,000 dead, took place in May 1998 in the provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan, in the northeast of the country.