Afghanistan teeters from deadly earthquake as crisis-stricken country struggles for aid | CNN

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Desperate search and rescue operations were underway in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday after an earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people, a blow to a country already experiencing a severe economic and humanitarian crisis.

The earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale struck near the city of Khost on the border with Pakistan in the early hours of Wednesday morning. At least 1,500 people have been injured, but officials warn the toll is likely to rise as many families were sleeping in flimsy houses when the quake struck.

Many houses in the area are made of mud, wood and other materials vulnerable to weathering – and the earthquake coincided with heavy monsoon rains, further increasing the danger of collapse.

Photos from nearby Paktika province, a rural and mountainous region where the most deaths have been reported, show houses reduced to rubble. About 2,000 homes have been destroyed, according to the United Nations. Some people spent the night sleeping in makeshift outdoor shelters as rescuers searched for survivors with flashlights.

Afghan villagers sit outside a tent after their home was damaged in an earthquake on June 22 in Spera, Khost province.

Doctors and emergency services from across the country are congregating at the site, with help from some international agencies such as the World Health Organization.

Aid may be limited, however, as many organizations withdrew from the aid-dependent country after the Taliban took power last August.

The Taliban government has deployed emergency equipment, including several helicopters and dozens of ambulances, and has offered compensation to the families of the victims.

It has also called for foreign aid and called for “the generous support of all countries, international organizations, individuals and foundations” on Wednesday.

The earthquake has exacerbated the problems already plaguing Afghanistan.

Although the economic crisis has been lurking for years, due to conflict and drought, it plunged to new depths after the Taliban takeover, which prompted the United States and its allies to use about $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves. freeze and close international financing.

The move has crippled the Afghan economy and left many of the 20 million people in a severe hunger crisis. Millions of Afghans are out of work, government employees are unpaid and the price of food has skyrocketed, with reports that some families are so desperate for food that they have resorted to selling their children.

Aid organizations are few and far between, and those that do are stretched. On Wednesday, the WHO said it had mobilized “all resources” from across the country, with teams on the ground providing medicines and emergency aid. But, as one WHO official put it, “Resources are overstretched here, not just for this region.”

Afghan Red Crescent Society volunteers in Giyan District, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, on June 22.

Experts and officials say medical care and transportation for the injured, shelter and supplies for the displaced, food and water and clothing are the most urgent immediate needs.

The UN has distributed medical supplies and sent mobile health teams to Afghanistan, but warned it lacks search and rescue capabilities and regional neighbors lack the capacity to intervene.

The US is no longer present in Afghanistan following the complete withdrawal of its troops and the collapse of the previous US-backed Afghan government. Like almost all other countries, it has no official relations with the Taliban government.

Turkey is the country most able to provide aid, said Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. He said the Turkish embassy in Afghanistan was “waiting for the formal request”.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the Turkish Red Crescent, which operates in Afghanistan, has sent humanitarian aid to the victims. On Thursday, a Taliban spokesman said humanitarian aid had also arrived from Qatar, Iran and Pakistan, with flights and trucks carrying medicines, tents and tarpaulins.

An estimated $15 million in aid is needed to respond to the disaster, Alakbarov said — a figure that will likely continue to rise as information trickles out about the situation on the ground.

“Our teams have no specific equipment to get people out of the rubble,” Alakbarov said. “This must depend largely on the efforts of the de facto authorities, who also have certain limitations in that regard… I do not have the detailed reports on how well they are positioned to operate and deploy such machines in these mountainous areas. ”

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), information, including damage assessments, is limited for now, with telecommunications disruptions in remote areas and poor weather conditions hampering transportation.

“The country is reeling from the effects of decades of conflict, prolonged severe drought, the effects of other intense climate-related disasters, extreme economic hardship, a battered health system and system-wide gaps,” the IFRC said on Wednesday. for more global support.

“So, even though the disaster is localized, the magnitude of the humanitarian needs will be enormous.”



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