KABUL/PESHAWAR: Pakistan said on Thursday it had sent special medical teams to Afghanistan while aid also trickled in from Qatar and Iran, as rescuers in the country’s east continued efforts to help survivors of a deadly earthquake that officials said killed at least 1,000 people.
An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 hit areas of Paktika and Khost provinces neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday night, flattening homes as people slept.
Paktika was worst affected, with officials estimating more than 1,000 people were killed and over 1,500 injured in the province’s Gayan and Barmal districts alone.
The extent of the destruction in the villages tucked away in the mountains was slow in coming to light, as search and rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain and poor connectivity in the affected areas. UN World Food Program teams deployed to deliver emergency supplies estimated more than 70 percent of homes in the worst-hit regions had been destroyed.
“The whole area looks like an open camp,” Qais Mohammad Muslim, an aid worker who arrived in Gayan district, told Arab News. “People have no shelter and no food to eat. The aid that reached the area so far is little and insufficient.”
Paktika resident Abdul Qudos said he had never experienced a quake “as powerful and destructive.”
“Entire villages were drowned in soil in Barmal and Gayan districts. There are families who lost all members,” he said. “We must do everything possible to help them. The international community has to deliver urgent aid to avoid further damage and loss.”
Response efforts are complicated as rescuers work without heavy equipment and proper medical support, after many international organizations pulled out of the aid-dependent country when the Taliban seized power after the withdrawal of US-led forces last August after two decades of war.
The Taliban government has requested foreign assistance, and its chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday aircraft with aid had arrived from Qatar and Iran, and trucks with food and emergency supplies reached had Paktika by road from Pakistan.
“Twenty special medical teams comprising orthopedic surgeons, medical officers, nurses and paramedical staff, medicines, 100 advanced medical beds sent,” Muhammad Ali Said, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, told Arab News. “All DHQs [district headquarter] and civil hospitals on high alert in North and South waziristan tribal districts to deal with any emergency in case of patients’ arrival from the neighboring country.”
But more aid is needed.
Naeem Hakim from the Afghan aid group Ehsas Welfare and Social Services Organization, who arrived in Paktika on Wednesday, said local hospitals were struggling to treat the injured.
“There’s an urgent need for blood (for) the seriously injured, and medicine,” he told Arab News. “Six hundred to 700 wounded people have been brought to the nearest hospital in Urgun district since yesterday. Around 200 are still there today. The more serious ones are transferred to the military hospital in the provincial capital Sharana, the provincial hospital and hospitals in Gardez and Ghazni.”
The quake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 1998, when magnitude 6.5 tremors killed more than 4,000 people in Takhar province in the country’s north.
Ramiz Alakbarov, UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday at least $15 million in aid was needed to respond to the disaster, a figure that is expected to rise in the coming days.