Earthquake survivors in Afghanistan battle for food and shelter in the midst of cholera outbreak
In Afghanistan’s remote eastern regions, the earthquake caused at least 1,000 fatalities and severely damaged roughly 10,000 homes.
Survivors of Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in two decades say they have nothing to eat, no shelter, and fear a possible cholera outbreak. The BBC’s Secunder Kermani reports from Paktika province, the hardest hit by the disaster.
Wednesday’s magnitude 5.9 earthquake in the rugged eastern provinces, which killed at least 1,000 people and destroyed or damaged about 10,000 houses – has downed mobile phone towers and power lines while triggering rock and mudslides which blocked mountain roads.
State media reported that at least five people were killed and at least 11 injured when another, smaller earthquake struck the same area on Friday, just as aid was beginning to trickle in after initial difficulties reaching the affected provinces.
Mawlawi Khalid, commander of the Taliban’s 203 Mansoori Army Corps, told Al Jazeera that all helicopters had been brought from Kandahar and Kabul. “Of course we still need much more, there is still a shortage,” he said.
In the badly-hit Paktika province, resident Yaqoub Khan told Al Jazeera all the buildings had been razed to the ground, including the local mosque. “There is nothing left here, only the injured,” he said.
Authorities say the earthquake left about 2,000 people wounded.
Ali Khan, a resident of the Gayan district of Paktika, told Al Jazeera the ground began shaking at approximately 1:30am local time. “My family – 10 people, including children were killed,” he said.
Khan said finding medical help for his surviving relatives was impossible. “There is a private clinic but it’s 30 minutes away. There is no government hospital,” he said.
In some of the worst affected districts, survivors said they were even struggling to find equipment to bury their dead and lacked the most basic provisions.
“There are no blankets, tents, there’s no shelter. Our entire water distribution system is destroyed. There is literally nothing to eat,” 21-year-old Zaitullah Ghurziwal told the media in his village in Paktika province.
Afghan and international aid agencies are assessing the damage and delivering supplies, but this is a major and developing crisis, one which comes on top of the country’s already dire humanitarian situation.
The United Nations, which is also helping support victims, is warning of the risk of a possible cholera outbreak.
The UN humanitarian office (OCHA) on Thursday said preparations were under way to avoid a cholera outbreak in the aftermath of the earthquake, as half a million cases of acute, watery diarrhoea had already been reported.
“Cholera outbreaks in the aftermath of earthquakes are of particular and serious concern,” OCHA said in a statement on Thursday. “Preparations to avoid an outbreak are under way.”
OCHA also said it was seeking to confirm that search and rescue operations were nearly finished.
Save the Children said more than 118,000 children were affected by the disaster.
“Many children are now most likely without clean drinking water, food and a safe place to sleep,” the international charity said.