GAYAN, AFGHANISTAN (AP) – The death toll from a devastating earthquake in Afghanistan continued to climb days after it turned brick and stone homes into rubble, killing 1,150 people and injuring scores more, according to the latest figures carried in state media yesterday.
The country of 38 million people was already in the midst of a spiralling economic crisis that had plunged millions deep into poverty with over a million children at risk of severe malnutrition.
The magnitude 6 quake on Wednesday that struck in the night as people were sleeping left thousands without shelter and brought into sharp focus the compounding needs of the country.
Afghanistan remains cut off from the international monetary system, and aid groups lament having to pay local staff with bags of cash delivered by hand as nations refuse to deal directly with the Taleban.
Aid organisations like the local Red Crescent and World Food Program have stepped in to assist the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency needs like tents and sleeping mats in Paktika province, the epicentre of the earthquake, and neighbouring Khost province.
Residents appeared to be largely on their own to deal with the aftermath as the Taleban-led government and the international aid community struggled to bring in help.
The shoddy mountain roads leading to the affected areas were made worse by damage and rain. Villagers have been burying their dead and digging through the rubble by hand in search of survivors.
The Taleban director of the state-run Bakhtar News Agency said yesterday the death toll had risen to 1,150 people from previous reports of 1,000 killed. Abdul Wahid Rayan said at least 1,600 people were injured.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the death toll at 770 people.
It’s not clear how the counts are being reached, given the difficulties of communicating with the impacted villages. Either grim toll would make the quake Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades.