Death toll in Afghanistan earthquake rises to 1,150

The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan continues to rise after 1,150 people were killed and several others injured after brick and stone houses were turned to rubble, according to the latest figures circulated in state media.

The country of 38 million people was already in the midst of a growing economic crisis that put millions of children at risk of severe malnutrition.

The magnitude six earthquake has left thousands without shelter.

About 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in Wednesday’s quake, state media reported.

Aid organizations such as the local Red Crescent and World Food Program have stepped in to help the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency needs such as tents and sleeping mats in Paktika province, the epicenter of the earthquake and neighboring Khost province.


A man standing in the midst of devastation in Gyan village (Ibrahim Nooruji/AP)

Nevertheless, their new Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggle to bring in help as residents largely reveal themselves to deal with it afterwards.

Villagers are burying their dead and digging the rubble by hand in search of survivors.

The Taliban director of state-run Bakhtar news agency said on Friday that the death toll had risen to 1,150, compared to previous reports of 1,000 people killed.

Abdul Wahid Ryan said at least 1,600 people were injured.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the death toll at 770.

It was not clear how the death toll was being arrived at given the difficulties of reaching and contacting the affected villages.

Any severe earthquake would make Afghanistan the deadliest in two decades.

At least 1,000 houses were damaged by the earthquake in Gyan district.

Another 800 houses were also damaged in the Spera district of Khost province.


Afghan children standing in front of a tent after the earthquake (Ibrahim Nooruji/AP)

While modern buildings elsewhere withstand as many as six earthquakes, Afghanistan’s mud-brick houses and landslide-prone mountains make such earthquakes more dangerous.

On Thursday, Associated Press reporters roamed for hours in Gian district villages, families who had spent the previous rainy night out in the open, picking up pieces of wood from collapsed roofs and hand-pulling stones, searching for missing loved ones.

Taliban fighters roamed the area in vehicles, but only a few were seen helping to dig up the rubble.

There was little sign of heavy equipment – only a bulldozer was being transported.

Ambulances were operated, but little help for a living was evident.

When the Taliban seized power last August, many international aid agencies withdrew from Afghanistan.

Those who survive are scrambling to get medical supplies, food and tents in the quake-hit area, using damaged mountain roads made worse by the damage and rain.


A man stands amid destruction in the village of Gayan in Paktika Province (Ibrahim Nooruzzi/AP)

UN agencies are also facing a £2.44 billion shortfall for Afghanistan this year.

Germany, Norway and several other countries announced that they were sending aid for the earthquake, but insisted that they would only work through UN agencies, not with the Taliban, which no government has yet approved. Not officially recognized.

Trucks of food and other necessities arrived from Pakistan, and planes loaded with humanitarian aid landed from Iran and Qatar.

India sent humanitarian relief and a technical team to the capital, Kabul, to coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid.

India says its aid will be handed over to a UN agency on the ground and the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

In the province of Paktika, the earthquake shook an area of ​​deep poverty, with residents living in some fertile areas among rough mountains.

The roads are so rough that it took a whole day to reach some villages in Gian district from Kabul, although it is only 110 miles away.

A six-year-old boy in Gyan cried saying that his parents, two sisters and a brother were all dead.

He had fled from the ruins of his own house and took refuge with the neighbours.