SHARAN, AFGHANISTAN (AFP, REUTERS) – Afghan authorities struggled on Thursday (June 23) to reach a remote area hit by an earthquake that killed 1,000 people but poor communications and a lack of proper roads hampered their efforts, officials said.
The 5.9-magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead hardscrabble lives in the grip of a humanitarian crisis made worse since the Taliban takeover in August.
“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too week, we trying to get updates,” Mr Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika province, told Reuters, referring to telephone networks.
The earthquake killed some 1,000 people and injured 1,500 injured, he said. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed.
About 600 people had been rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night, he said.
The town of Gayan, close to the epicentre, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed, a Reuters team said.
The town was bustling with Taliban soldiers and ambulances as a helicopter bringing in relief supplies landed nearby, whipping up huge swirls of dust. About 300 people sat on the ground waiting for supplies.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the global agency has “fully mobilised” to help, deploying health teams and supplies of medicine, food, trauma kits and emergency shelter to the quake zone.
The death toll climbed steadily Wednesday as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Mr Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.
The earthquake struck areas that were already suffering the effects of heavy rain, causing rockfalls and mudslides that hampered rescue efforts.
“It was a horrible situation,” said Mr Arup Khan, 22, recovering at a hospital in Paktika’s provincial capital Sharan. “There were cries everywhere. The children and my family were under the mud.”