Aftershock in Afghanistan as quake toll rises to 1,150 dead

  • A man stands among destruction after an earthquake on June 23 in Gayan village, in Paktika province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Nooroozi)

GAYAN, Afghanistana — Tents, food and medical supplies rolled into the mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan where thousands were left homeless or injured by this week’s powerful earthquake, which state media said killed 1,150 people. A new aftershock Friday took five more lives and deepened the misery.

Among the dead from Wednesday’s magnitude 6 quake are 121 children, but that figure is expected to climb, said Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF’s representative in Afghanistan. He said close to 70 children were injured.

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Overstretched aid agencies said the disaster underscored the need for the international community to rethink its financial cut-off of Afghanistan since Taliban insurgents seized the country 10 months ago. That policy, halting billions in development aid and freezing vital reserves, has helped push the economy into collapse and plunge Afghanistan deeper into humanitarian crises and near famine.

The quake struck a remote, deeply impoverished region of small towns and villages tucked among rough mountains near the Pakistani border, collapsing stone and mud-brick homes and in some cases killing entire families. Nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in Paktika and Khost provinces, state media reported.

The effort to help the victims has been slowed both by geography and by Afghanistan’s decimated condition. Rutted roads through the mountains, already slow to drive on, were made worse by quake damage and rain. The International Red Cross has five hospitals in the region, but damage to the roads made it difficult for those in the worse-hit areas to reach them, said Lucien Christen, ICRC spokesman in Afghanistan.

Some of the injured had to be taken to a hospital in Ghazni, more than 130 kilometers (80 miles) away that the ICRC has kept running by paying salaries to staff over the past months, he said. Many health facilities around the country have shut down, unable to pay personnel or obtain supplies.

“It shows if you don’t have functional health system, people cannot access basic services they need, especially in these sorts of times,” Christen said.

On Friday, Pakistan’s Meteorological Department reported a new, 4.2 magnitude quake. Afghanistan’s state-run Bakhtar News Agency said five people were killed and 11 injured in Gayan, a district of Paktika province that is one of the areas worst hit in Wednesday’s quake.

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