Devastating Earthquake in Afghanistan’s Northwest Claims Thousands of Lives
Rescue Operations Scaled Back as Hope for Survivors Fades
Rescuers in Afghanistan’s devastated northwest have scaled back operations as the chances of finding survivors diminish 72 hours after one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes. Villagers in the area are now holding mass funerals for their loved ones.
High Casualty Toll and Widespread Destruction
The Taliban-run government reported that at least 2,400 people have been killed and over 2,000 injured in the multiple earthquakes that struck the northwest of Herat city, leveling thousands of homes. The majority of the casualties are women and children, according to the World Health Organization.
Challenges in Relief Efforts
Relief and rescue efforts have been hampered by the crumbling infrastructure caused by decades of war and a lack of foreign aid. Previously, foreign aid played a vital role in supporting the economy, but since the Taliban took over, it has significantly decreased.
Diminishing Hope for Survivors
“The operation is almost done,” said Janan Sayeeq, spokesperson for the Disaster Management Ministry. While rescue efforts are still ongoing in some villages, the chances of finding more survivors are diminishing rapidly.
Revised Casualty Toll
Initially, the U.N. Humanitarian Office reported a death toll of 1,023 with over 1,600 people injured and more than 500 missing. However, Janan Sayeeq stated that a final casualty toll will be released soon.
Afghanistan’s Vulnerability to Earthquakes
Afghanistan, surrounded by mountains, has a history of strong earthquakes, particularly in the rugged Hindu Kush region bordering Pakistan. The recent earthquakes, with a magnitude of 6.3, are among the deadliest in the world this year, following the ones in Turkey and Syria.
Grieving Villages and the Urgent Need for Assistance
In the village of Siah Aab, funeral prayers were held for the victims before they were laid to rest in freshly dug graves. Taj Mohammad, a grieving villager, expressed his loss, saying, “I have lost my four daughters-in-law, my four sons, and my grandchildren.” The urgent need for support, including medical aid, food, and shelter, is crucial as temperatures drop.
International Aid and the Struggle for Survival
While the U.N.’s humanitarian office has announced $5 million worth of assistance for the quake response, immediate material support has been limited to just a few countries. Afghanistan’s healthcare system, heavily reliant on foreign aid, has faced crippling cuts since the Taliban took over, exacerbating the challenges faced by survivors.
A Grave Digger’s Perspective
Abdul Sattar, a grave digger in Siah Aab, emphasized the need for support, stating, “Their first hope is God, followed by help from other countries.” He and others have already dug more than 500 graves, highlighting the magnitude of the tragedy.
As Afghanistan struggles to recover from this devastating earthquake, the immediate focus remains on providing critical aid and support to the affected communities. The road to recovery will be long and arduous, but with international assistance and solidarity, the nation can begin to rebuild and heal.