Afghanistan earthquake: Taliban appeal for more aid as death toll set to mount

Published date23 June 2022
Publication titleIrish Times: Web Edition Articles (Dublin, Ireland)
With the war-ravaged nation already stricken by an economic crisis, the hardline Islamist leadership said sanctions imposed by western countries after the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces last year meant it was handicapped in its ability to deal with Wednesday's disaster in Khost and Paktika provinces

The death toll climbed steadily as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country's supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would probably rise further on Thursday.

The earthquake struck areas that were already suffering the effects of heavy rain, causing rockfalls and mudslides that hampered rescue efforts.

As rescue teams and local people resumed digging through rubble with their hands on Thursday in the search for survivors, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, the head of the information and culture department in Paktika, said: "People are digging grave after grave."

Footage released by the Taliban showed residents digging a long trench to bury the dead. Mr Huzaifa said more than 1,500 people were injured, many critically. "People are still trapped under the rubble," he said.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan grapples with a severe economic crisis that has gripped it since the Taliban takeover last year, and amid rapidly mounting concerns over the ability of the Taliban and international agencies to respond quickly.

While major international agencies still operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover saw other agencies and governments reduce their assistance programmes in a country where about 80 per cent of the budget came from foreign assistance.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a senior Taliban official, said the government "appreciated and welcomed" help that has been pledged by some other governments and relief agencies such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the Red Cross.

But the 5.9-magnitude earthquake – initially reported as magnitude 6.1, and the country's deadliest for more than 20 years – had caused such widespread damage and suffering that more help was needed.

"The government sadly is under sanctions so it is financially unable to assist the people to the extent that is needed," he said. "The assistance needs to be scaled up to a very large extent because this is a devastating...

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