After the earthquake in Afghanistan, rescue and supply operations under high pressure

Earthquake damage in eastern Afghanistan's Bermal District

Earthquake damage in eastern Afghanistan’s Bermal district

© 2022 AFP

After the devastating earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, helpers from Germany and abroad are working flat out to rescue more victims and to provide the population with supplies

After the devastating earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, helpers from home and abroad are working flat out to rescue more victims and to provide the population with the essentials. The first aid flights from abroad arrived on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the Taliban government. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) promised rapid German help for the people affected after the disaster with more than a thousand dead and 1,500 injured.

Two planes from Qatar and Iran brought urgently needed relief supplies into the country, as government spokesman Sabihullah Mujahid announced on Twitter. Eight trucks out Pakistan delivered food and other relief supplies to the hard-hit Paktika province. The EU and the USA also agreed to help.

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the east bordering Pakistan on Wednesday night of Afghanistan shocked. Saitullah Ghursiwal, a resident of Bermal district, told AFP the tremor surprised him while he was sleeping. “When I ran out of my house, everything was quiet because people were buried under their houses.” The survivors now lack tents, blankets, drinking water and food.

To U.N.-It is estimated that about 2000 houses were destroyed by the earthquake, the local average household size is more than 20 people. According to preliminary information from Wednesday, at least a thousand people died and around 1,500 others were injured. It is the deadliest earthquake to hit Afghanistan in more than two decades. A further increase in the number of victims was expected.

Because many mobile phone masts and power lines were destroyed by the earthquake, it is difficult for the authorities to get a picture of the situation. “Getting information locally is very difficult because of bad networks,” said the information chief of paktika, Mohammed Amin Husaifa, on Thursday to AFP. That is why there is no update on the number of victims.

Floods and landslides caused by heavy rains hampered rescue and recovery operations, Husaifa said. It is unusually cold for the time of year. In addition, the disaster area is mountainous and difficult to reach. The ruling radical Islamic Taliban sent the army into the earthquake area, but otherwise have few resources for the disaster response.

The country has only a few helicopters and planes for rescue operations and hardly any clearing vehicles. In many places, people are digging for victims with their bare hands. Mohammed Jahja Wiar, head of a clinic in Paktika’s capital, Sharan, told AFP how the Afghan health system was overwhelmed by the disaster. “This is a humanitarian crisis. It’s like a tsunami,” he said.

In addition, Afghanistan was already in an economic crisis before the earthquake. After the Taliban took power last August, the West froze its billions in aid to Afghanistan.

After the earthquake, the Taliban asked for help from abroad to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres assured that the UN agencies are “fully mobilized” for aid operations in Afghanistan.

Baerbock said in Berlin that “in such a moment, only the commandment of humanity counts”. The federal government will increase its aid for the Johanniter, who are already traveling to the disaster area with a team, and will also provide other aid. This would not be done through the Taliban, but rather through UN organizations.

State Secretary for Development Niels Annen (SPD) said on Deutschlandfunk that Germany does not tie “immediate help to survive” “to political conditions”. However, if the leadership in Kabul wants to receive international aid on a regular basis, it will have to change course. He hopes “that the earthquake and everything that it brings with it, including international attention, will result in those responsible for the Taliban initiating a change of course here.”