Tuesday July 05, 2022

Rescuers scramble to reach Afghan quake survivors

June 24, 2022

BERMAL, Afghanistan: Desperate rescuers battled against the clock and heavy rain on Thursday to reach cut-off areas in eastern Afghanistan after a powerful earthquake killed at least 1,000 people and left thousands more homeless.

Wednesday’s 5.9-magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, downing mobile phone towers and power lines while triggering rock and mudslides which blocked mountain roads. Entire villages have been levelled in some of the worst affected districts, where survivors said they were struggling to find equipment to bury their dead.

"When I came out of my house it was quiet because all the people were buried under their homes. Nothing is left here," said 21-year-old Zaitullah Ghurziwal. "Getting information from the ground is very difficult because of bad networks," Mohammed Amin Huzaifa, head of information for badly hit Paktika province, told AFP on Thursday.

"The area has been affected by floods because of heavy rains last night... it is also difficult to access the affected sites." The aid-dependent country saw the bulk of its foreign assistance cut off in the wake of the Taliban takeover last August, and even before the earthquake the United Nations warned of a humanitarian crisis that threatened the entire population.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the global agency has "fully mobilised" to help, deploying health teams and supplies of medicine, food, trauma kits and emergency shelter to the quake zone.

Survivors in Bermal district, a collection of remote mountain villages, said they were struggling to find equipment to dig graves. "We did not have even a shovel to dig... so we used a tractor. We buried 60 people yesterday and 30 more are still remaining to be buried. People are working continuously," said Ghurziwal.