New York News
SHARANA, Afghanistan — Heavy rain and strong winds were frustrating search and rescue efforts late Wednesday after a massive earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan, killing more than 1,000 and injuring more than 1,600, government officials said.
A sudden downpour washed away roads leading to some of the hardest-hit areas in Paktika province, according to doctors at the main hospital in the capital city of Sharana. “There are hundreds injured still in their villages without aid or shelter, but they cannot leave because of the flooded roads,” said one of the doctors, Kamran Khan.
Khan added that 10 ambulances are stuck in a district where hundreds of homes were flattened. The storms also grounded rescue helicopters for several hours Wednesday.
Safia, a 2-year-old being treated for a concussion at the Sharana hospital, lost 18 members of her family in the village of Bermal. Only her mother and grandfather survived.
The quake brought the roof of their home crashing down, but one of the beams fell at an angle, shielding Safia from the falling rubble.
“When I climbed out, I saw my village destroyed,” said Abdulhanan Wazir, Safia’s grandfather. Crowds quickly formed to help dig families out. “The mosques in neighboring villages made announcements telling people where to go to help,” he said.
As he buried his relatives, he said he counted more than a hundred other families laying entire households to rest.
“My village is finished,” he said.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the mountainous area near the country’s border with Pakistan — about 27 miles from the city of Khost — according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which put the magnitude at 5.9.
The toll from the quake makes it one of the deadliest the country has seen in decades, and is the first major natural disaster since the Taliban swept to power in Kabul last summer after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces.
Maulawi Sharafuddin Muslim, the acting deputy minister of the country’s disaster management authority, said at a news conference that “some villages have been completely destroyed.” He said an emergency cabinet meeting had been convened and that Afghanistan’s prime minister was leading the coordination of rescue and relief efforts.
Authorities will allocate about $11 million in aid, Muslim said,