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Afghan authorities scramble to reach earthquake zone, EU offers help

Updated 23 Jun, 2022
<p>Afghan Red Crescent medics and volunteers transport earthquake victims to hospitals.
Photo by: Reuters</p>

Afghan Red Crescent medics and volunteers transport earthquake victims to hospitals. Photo by: Reuters

KABUL: Afghan authorities struggled on Thursday 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 magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck early on Wednesday about 160 km, (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, in arid mountains doted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we are trying to get updates,” 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, he said. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed.

About 600 people had been rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night, he added.

The rescue operation will be a major test for the hard-line Islamist Taliban authorities, who took over the country last August after two decades of war and have been cut off from much international assistance because of sanctions.

The Taliban-led ministry of defense is leading rescue efforts.

Afghan media published pictures of houses reduced to rubble and bodies swathed in blankets on the ground in the hours after the earthquake.

Offers of help

The United States, whose troops helped topple the initial Taliban regime and remained in Afghanistan for two decades until Washington pulled them out last year, was “deeply saddened” by the earthquake, the White House said.

“President Biden is monitoring developments and has directed USAID (US Agency for International Development) and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

The European Union was also quick to offer assistance.

Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”

Neighbour Pakistan, where officials said one person was killed in the quake, said it would send emergency aid – including tents – across the border.