Rescuers dig by hand for quake survivors amid confusion over Taliban aid appeal

World

An earthquake survivor has told of his loss of 26 family members as rescuers resort to digging by hand in villages raised to the ground in eastern Afghanistan.

It comes amid confusion over an official request for aid.

While the Taliban government says it has asked for international assistance, the US says it has not received any official communication.

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on Twitter and offered humanitarian aid. Other countries including Pakistan, South Korea and Japan have also pledged support.

The rescue efforts of the country’s hard-line Islamist leadership faces a major test having been cut off from much international assistance since its seizure of power last summer. There have already been poor responses to aid appeals despite drought and a collapse of the economy.

At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 1,500 injured after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday struck a rural, mountainous region and flattened stone and mud-brick homes.

The majority of the fatalities have been in the province of Paktika, where the district of Gayan, close to the epicentre of the 6.1 magnitude quake, suffered significant damage to buildings.

More on Afghanistan

As rescue teams and villagers resumed the search for survivors by digging through rubble with their hands on Thursday, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the information and culture department in Paktika, said: “People are digging grave after grave.”

One man receiving treatment in Paktika Provincial Hospital said he had lost dozens of relatives including his own children.

“I was in my home and the quake happened at 1.30am local time. Everything fell on us and I didn’t know at the time what was happening,” said Gulak.

Two boys sit near their house that was destroyed in the earthquake in Khost Province, Afghanistan
Image:
Two boys sit near their house that was destroyed in the earthquake in Khost Province, Afghanistan

“I have lost 26 of my family members, including cousins and close relatives… even my own children were killed.”

Amir Gul said he had lost seven family members and a further six had been injured.

“It was very strong earthquake… all the homes are destroyed and ruined. Paktika province is a big province but there is no food, no tents and no other facilities here.

“The people are under open sky now. We are asking for help… a lot of people are injured,” he added.

The disaster comes amid an economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan since the Taliban took control in August 2021 and the withdrawal of US-led international forces after two decades of war.

Its already fragile economy, heavily dependent on aid, has been crippled by Western sanctions on its banking sector and cuts in aid.

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