Afghans are burying the dead, digging for survivors of the devastating earthquake.

GYAN, Afghanistan – In search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, villagers arrived Thursday to bury the dead and dig out the rubble of their homes by hand. State media reported that 1,000 people had been killed. The fleeing Taliban and the international community struggled to help the victims of the disaster.

Under a leaden sky in Paktika Province, which was the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, men dug a line of graves in a village as they tried to calm the men down quickly, according to Muslim tradition. In a courtyard, bodies lie wrapped in plastic to protect them from rain that is hampering relief efforts for survivors.

The state-run Bakhtar News Agency put the death toll at an estimated 1,500 more. In the first independent count, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said about 770 people were killed in Paktika and neighboring Khost Province.

It is not clear how the total number was reached in view of the difficulties in reaching and communicating with the affected villages trapped in the remote mountains. Either way, the quake could make Afghanistan the deadliest in two decades, and officials have warned that the number could rise.

Afghans stand in the midst of disaster following the June 23, 2022, earthquake in Gyan village, Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
AP

“They have nothing to eat, they are wondering what they can eat, and it is raining,” a Bakhtar reporter said in footage of the quake-hit area. “Their houses are destroyed. Please help them, don’t leave them alone.

Destruction inflicts more suffering on a country where Millions are already facing growing hunger and poverty. And the health system has been in turmoil since the Taliban returned to power about 10 months ago. Between the withdrawal of the United States and NATO.

How will the international humanitarian community, which has withdrawn significant resources from the country, be able to offer aid and to what extent will the Taliban government leave it in question? Significant international funding has been cut due to the Taliban’s occupation, and most governments are wary of dealing with them directly.

UN agencies and other organizations still operating in Afghanistan said they had sent supplies to the area, including medical kits, tents and plastic tarpaulins, but the need was too great as the entire village was badly damaged. ۔

Afghans live in devastation after an earthquake in the village of Gyan in Afghanistan's Paktika Province on Thursday, June 23, 2022.
Afghans are devastated by the June 23, 2022, earthquake in Gyan village, Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
AP

“We ask the Islamic Emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,” said one survivor, Hakimullah. “We have nothing and we have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”

Search and rescue remains a top priority. In the worst-hit Gyan district, most of the debris was so large that people could not move with their hands or shovels. He said he hoped large diggers would drive him out of his remote homes. Currently there is only one bulldozer in the area.

On Wednesday, a UN official said that despite an extraordinary request from the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hebatullah Akhundzada, for world help, the government had asked the international organization to mobilize international search and rescue teams. Did not request equipment from countries.

UN agencies are facing a 3 billion funding shortfall for Afghanistan this year, and Peter Kessler, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, said that would mean tough decisions. Who will get help?

A man stands in the midst of disaster after an earthquake in the village of Gyan in Afghanistan's Paktika Province on Thursday, June 23, 2022.
A man stands in the midst of devastation following the June 23, 2022, earthquake in the village of Gyan in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province.
AP

In addition to political and financial concerns, there were logistical challenges in delivering aid to remote villages. Roads that are dilapidated and difficult to travel in optimal conditions may have been badly damaged in the quake, and recent rains have made landslides impossible. Although just 110 miles south of the capital, Kabul, some villages in Gyan District took a full day’s drive.

Rescue workers arrived by helicopter – and Associated Press reporters also saw ambulances in the quake zone on Thursday – but it will be difficult to deliver heavy supplies.

The walls and roofs of dozens of houses in Gyan collapsed in the quake, and villagers said entire families were buried under the rubble. Associated Press reporters counted about 50 bodies in the area alone, as people placed their dead in front of their homes and in their courtyards.

While modern buildings withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s mud brick houses and landslides make such earthquakes even more dangerous. Mild earthquakes also cause more damage and experts say the depth of Wednesday’s quake was only 6 miles.

Men stand around the bodies of those killed in an earthquake in the village of Gyan in Afghanistan's Paktika Province on Thursday, June 23, 2022.
Men stand around the bodies of those killed in the June 23, 2022, earthquake in Gyan village, Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
AP

Despite the challenges, officials from several UN agencies said the Taliban were giving them full access to the area.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks of food and other essentials had reached Paktika from Pakistan. He also said on Thursday that two humanitarian aid planes had arrived from Iran and one from Qatar.

It may be more difficult to get more direct international aid: many countries, including the United States, the United Nations and other such organizations, deliver humanitarian aid to Afghanistan so that money does not fall into the hands of the Taliban.

In a news bulletin on Thursday, Afghanistan’s state television made a point of acknowledging that US President Joe Biden – his one-time enemy – had offered condolences on the quake and promised aid. A White House statement said Biden on Wednesday ordered the US International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its partners to “review” the options available to victims.

The death toll reported by Bakhtar was the same as the 2002 earthquake in northern Afghanistan – the deadliest since 1998, when a 6.1-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks shook the far northeast. At least 4,500 people were killed.

A man stands in the midst of disaster after an earthquake in the village of Gyan in Afghanistan's Paktika Province on Thursday, June 23, 2022.
A man stands in the midst of devastation following the June 23, 2022, earthquake in the village of Gyan in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province.
AP

According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the epicenter of Wednesday’s quake was in Paktika province, about 31 miles southwest of Khost city.

In the spray district of Khost Province, which also caused severe damage, men were standing on top of what was once a mud house. The earthquake tore his wooden beam. People sat outside under a makeshift tent made of blankets that was blowing in the wind.

Survivors immediately prepared the district’s dead, including children and an infant, for burial. Authorities fear more deaths will be reported in the coming days.

Adnan Junaid, vice president of International Rescue Asia, said: “The damage done to local communities by this disaster is devastating, and the impact of the earthquake on the already widespread humanitarian response in Afghanistan is a matter of concern.” Committee. “The worst-affected areas are the poorest and most remote in Afghanistan, which lacks the infrastructure to deal with such disasters.”