GAYAN, (Afghanistan): Aid trickled to devastated villages in remote parts of Afghanistan Friday but thousands of people remain without food, shelter and water three days after the country’s deadliest earthquake in decades.
Wednesday’s 5.9-magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east along the border with Pakistan while people slept, killing more than 1,000 and leaving thousands homeless.
Entire villages have been levelled in some of the worst affected districts, where survivors said they were even struggling to find equipment to bury their dead.
“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 an AFP team that reached his village in hard-hit Paktika province.
The area was still being roiled by aftershocks that were sending frightened locals scurrying from whatever shelter they had sought in badly damaged dwellings.
One aftershock early Friday killed five people, according to Maqbool Luqmanzai, director of health in Gayan district. Aid was starting to trickle through in some areas. AFP saw seven trucks from the United Nations World Food Programme trundle into the village of Wuchkai Friday morning, 24 hours after leaving Kabul, to distribute tents and emergency rations.
Two Doctors Without Borders trucks also arrived with medical supplies.
Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of information for Paktika province, said heavy rain and floods were hampering efforts to reach those affected. Communications have also been hit as the quake toppled mobile phone towers and power lines.
The earthquake struck areas already suffering the effects of heavy rain, causing rockfalls and mudslides that wiped out hamlets perched precariously on mountain slopes.
Officials say nearly 10,000 houses were destroyed, an alarming number in an area where the average household size is more than 20 people.
“Seven in one room, five in the other room, four in another, and three in another have been killed in my family,” Bibi Hawa told AFP from a hospital bed in the Paktika capital Sharan.
At Wuchkai, a cemetery on a rise overlooking the village had 11 fresh graves — all members of the same family.
Save the Children said more than 118,000 children were impacted by the disaster.
“Many children are now most likely without clean drinking water, food and a safe place to sleep,” the international charity said.
The disaster poses a huge logistical challenge for the Taliban government, which has isolated itself from much of the world by introducing hardline Islamic rule.
The aid-dependent country saw the bulk of its foreign assistance cut off following the Taliban takeover last August, and even before Wednesday’s disaster the United Nations warned of a humanitarian crisis that threatened the entire population.