HnExpress Mayank Chakravarty, Web desk News : The 5.9 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead hardscrabble lives in a country under a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover in August. “People are digging grave after grave,” said Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in hard-hit Paktika, adding that at least 1,000 people had died in that province alone.
It is raining also, and all houses are destroyed. People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told journalists. The death count climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further. The Taliban appealed for international help for the rescue effort as pictures showed landslides and ruined mud-built homes in the province of Paktika.
The quake struck shortly after 01:30 (21:00 GMT Tuesday) as people slept. Hundreds of houses were destroyed by the magnitude 6.1 event, which occurred at a depth of 51km (32 miles). It is the deadliest earthquake to strike Afghanistan in two decades and a major challenge for the Taliban, the Islamist movement which regained power last year after the Western-backed government collapsed.
The earthquake struck about 44km from the city of Khost and tremors were felt as far away as Pakistan and India. Witnesses reported feeling the quake in both Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, and Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.Taliban officials asked the UN to “support them in terms of assessing the needs and responding to those affected”.
Earthquakes tend to cause significant damage in Afghanistan, where dwellings in many rural areas are unstable or poorly built.”The kids and I screamed,” said Fatima. “One of our rooms was destroyed. Our neighbours screamed and we saw everyone’s rooms.” “It destroyed the houses of our neighbours,” Faisal said. “When we arrived there were many dead and wounded. They sent us to the hospital. I also saw many dead bodies.”
There are no official aid workers, but people from neighbouring cities and villages came here to rescue people,” he said. “I arrived this morning, and I myself – found 40 dead bodies.” Most of the dead, he said, were “very young children”. The local hospital just did not have the capacity to deal with such a disaster, the farmer added. In remote areas, helicopters have been ferrying victims to hospitals.
Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency services were stretched to deal with natural disasters – with few aircraft and helicopters available to rescuers.”We didn’t have enough people and facilities before the earthquake, and now the earthquake has ruined the little we had,” they said. “I don’t know how many of our colleagues are still alive.
Many people are not aware of the well- being of their relatives because their phones are not working,” he said. Most of the casualties so far have been in the Gayan and Barmal districts in Paktika. Local media site Etilaat-e Roz reported a whole village in Gayan had been destroyed. Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.