ISLAMABAD — The Taliban government and aid groups in western Afghanistan said Monday that rescue efforts were ongoing to find and recover survivors trapped under rubble, two days after a powerful earthquake and multiple aftershocks killed hundreds of people and injured many more.
The 6.3 magnitude quake hit the western province of Herat on Saturday, destroying more than a dozen villages in and around the hardest-hit remote Zinda Jan district.
Officials and witnesses said the disaster zone was twice shaken by fresh tremors Monday, rattling the provincial capital, also called Herat, and sending thousands of its residents into the streets. No losses were reported immediately.
While the Taliban government has reported at least 2,000 deaths since the calamity on Saturday, the United Nations confirmed more than 1,000 fatalities, saying nearly 1,700 injured were injured. More than 1,300 homes have reportedly been destroyed or partially damaged.
Siddiq Ibrahim, the UNICEF’s field officer for western Afghanistan, told VOA by phone from Herat that the casualties were expected to increase, saying volunteers and residents from surrounding areas were assisting Taliban teams in the rescue efforts.
“They are using very basic tools to dig up and try to see if there are any survivors or bodies underneath the rubble,” Ibrahim said after visiting some of the affected villages. “I was shocked to see that these villages have been completely wiped to the ground. There is absolutely nothing standing,” Ibrahim said.
“When the first earthquake hit, people thought it was a missile or a bomb, and they ran into their homes. Unfortunately, the quake continued, and houses started collapsing,” he said, explaining the reasons for the high number of casualties.
Ibrahim said UNICEF and partner agencies had set up tents to provide emergency medical aid to the area communities, and efforts were also under way to establish temporary schools to enable children to resume their education as soon as normalcy returns to the area.
The earthquake struck the country on the day renewed hostilities broke out in the Middle East, effectively diverting global attention from the crisis in Afghanistan.
“We need the world to keep working with us, supporting us. There are so many issues in the world, but we also need to keep giving equal attention to the children of Afghanistan who are in desperate need of aid,” Ibrahim said.
Afghanistan, an impoverished country of about 40 million people, mainly relies on foreign aid to run its economy, health care, and social services. Donor nations have cut most of the financial assistance since the hardline Taliban seized power two years ago.
The U.N. humanitarian office has announced $5 million worth of assistance for the quake response. The Taliban have urged foreign nations and international aid agencies to help in rehabilitating quake victims.
Neighboring Pakistan, Iran, and China’s Red Cross Society immediately extended cash and material aid for Afghan earthquake victims. The Taliban said Monday that a Saudi charity had provided $2 million dollars’ worth of humanitarian food and other material through the Afghan Red Crescent Society.
Monday, the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Afghanistan, which operates out of Qatar, applauded the U.N. for approving the funds to support emergency relief efforts.
“My heart goes out to the Afghan people following the earthquakes in Herat province on Saturday and today. U.S. partners have already started to distribute hygiene kits, food, safe drinking water, and medical supplies to affected families in Afghanistan,” Charge d’affaires Karen Decker said on X, formerly Twitter.
In a statement Monday, Amnesty International urged Taliban authorities to guarantee safe and unrestricted access to the quake-hit regions for humanitarian agencies.
“People in Afghanistan are already suffering from the impacts of the acute economic crisis and several years of conflict,” said Zaman Sultani, the global watchdog’s regional researcher for South Asia.
“With the winter months ahead, Amnesty International calls on the de facto authorities and the international community to immediately mobilize resources to support access to housing, adequate food, potable water, safe sanitation, and health care as thousands of families face an uncertain future with their homes destroyed by the earthquake,” Sultani said.
The Taliban have banned humanitarian groups from employing Afghan female staff and ordered many women government employees to stay home since taking control of the country. Aid agencies say restricting women employees has hampered their humanitarian activities in the deeply conservative society.
Teenage girls are forbidden from receiving an education beyond the sixth grade across Afghanistan, prompting the world to isolate the Taliban and refuse to recognize their government.
Source : VOA News