Afghanistan quake destruction ‘worse than we imagined’

Kabul – International aid groups in Afghanistan are scrambling to send help to survivors of this weekend’s earthquake in the west of the country which left more than 2 000 people dead and many more injured in a war-ravaged nation already stricken by an economic crisis.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck on Saturday 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Herat city in the western Herat province – the third largest in Afghanistan. It was one of the deadliest quakes to hit Afghanistan in years.

Images showed massive heaps of debris and rubble after buildings collapsed. Crowds of survivors were also seen gathered in the streets for safety.

“The situation is worse than we imagined with people in devastated villages still desperately trying to rescue survivors from under the rubble with their bare hands,” said Thamindri de Silva, national director at World Vision Afghanistan.

Reinforcements from the capital Kabul had arrived to help, de Silva added, “but there was only one hospital and it was at full stretch with serious cases being transferred to other private facilities in the city.”

“Our colleagues and their families are processing this devastation in their hometowns and yet, we are responding with everything we have,” de Silva said. “People need urgent medical care, water, food, shelter and help to stay safe.”

Mark Calder, World Vision Afghanistan’s advocacy lead, told CNN that the earthquakes were “yet another devastating episode, after decades of conflict, successive droughts and a collapsed economy.”

Funding from the international community, he added, “has been inadequate”.

“Organisations like ours are able to provide relief and help recovery but without commitment from international governments and donors, more will fall into humanitarian need, displacement will increase and lives will be lost. The world must not look away now.”

UN agencies and partners are continuing to mount emergency operations and deploying more teams to join ongoing humanitarian efforts, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Stéphane Dujarric said.

“We are coordinating with the de facto authorities to swiftly assess needs and provide emergency assistance,” Dujarric said.

UN Secretary General António Guterres on Sunday expressed solidarity and called on the international community to “come together and support Afghans impacted by the earthquake – many of whom were already in need before this crisis,” he added.

UNICEF, the UN’s children’s fund, has dispatched 10 000 hygiene kits, 5 000 family kits, 1 500 sets of winter clothes and blankets, 1 000 tarpaulins, and basic household items to ongoing humanitarian efforts.

Teams are also conducting additional assessments on the ground and are providing emergency drugs and tents for overburdened health clinics. (CNN)

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