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Foreign Aid Trickles as Death Toll Rises in Quake-Hit Afghanistan

The number of people killed by Saturday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan has surpassed 2,400 as search and rescue teams extracted more bodies from the ruins of hundreds of destroyed houses, according to local officials.

“Martyrs are still under the rubble,” said Matiul Haq Khalis, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, after visiting the quake-affected areas in Herat province on Tuesday.

In a village located at the earthquake’s epicenter, it is reported that up to 300 bodies have been buried.

“Some are martyred, some are wounded, and some are searching for the missing ones…no one is unhurt,” Khalis said.

The country’s health ministry has reported 2,445 deaths so far, but the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) gives a lower death toll at 1,300 dead and 500 individuals missing.

At least 540 people, primarily women and children, have received treatment for injuries sustained during the quake at a hospital supported by international NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

“Most of the injured are women and children, likely because when the earthquake hit mid-morning, they were the ones at home,” MSF said in a statement on Tuesday.

The United Nations Satellite Center has released satellite images depicting extensive damage to structures in the Zindajan and Injil districts of Herat province. The majority of the houses, constructed from mud, were unable to withstand the earthquake’s force, resulting in the high casualty rate.

On the ground, a team of Iranian first responders, accompanied by search dogs, is assisting local communities in the retrieval of bodies from the wreckage, Khalis said.

Needs, response

Food, shelter and medicine are among the most urgent needs in the disaster-hit areas, aid workers say.

“It’s already too cold,” said Khalis, describing the needs of the affected people. “If their shelters are not built before the winter sets, they said, their children will face risks of death.”

Child-focused humanitarian organizations warn about severe trauma experienced by children in the aftermath of natural disasters.

“Children are particularly vulnerable and have suffered severe psychological distress due to the earthquake,” Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for OCHA, told VOA. “They require mental health and psychosocial support.”

Source : VOA News