Urgun, Afghanistan, Jun 23 (EFE).- Thirteen members of a single family have been killed by the devastating 5.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Afghanistan on Tuesday night, leaving more than 1,000 dead in the worst tragedy of its kind in decades.
“I lost 13 members of my family including my mother, sisters and four children. My wife and a daughter are hospitalized in another ward,” Sawar Khan, himself admitted to a hospital in the Urgun district in the Afghan province of Paktika, told EFE.
The eastern provinces of Paktika and Khost, situated close to the border with Pakistan, have been worst hit by the quake, which killed at least 1,030 people and wounded more than 1,500.
The tremor caught sleeping people unaware, giving them barely any time to flee their flimsy mud houses in the remote provinces.
“I could only rescue two of my five children and my wife, as there was a lot dust and debris on the floor,” Khan said from his hospital bed, with injuries on his head and right leg.
More than 24 hours after the disaster, Afghanistan has continued search and rescue operations in the hope of finding survivors and to take out bodies.
Hospitals in Paktika, Khost and nearby areas have been filled to the limit with hundreds of wounded, while families were digging graves for mass funerals of the victims.
“The number of casualties is expected to increase as rescuers reach hardest-hit villages where people remain trapped in rubble,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement on Thursday, while supplying vital aid to Afghanistan.
The problem of international humanitarian assistance was already a crucial and hotly contested topic due to international sanctions triggered by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, which is beset by an economic and social catastrophe with escalating levels of poverty and starvation.
“This latest earthquake is another horrific tragedy for Afghanistan, as if there were not enough. It struck in a grim backdrop where more than 50 per cent of our people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance due a combination of catastrophic crises,” said Mohammad Nabi Burhan, the secretary general of Afghan Red Crescent.
Afghans were already struggling to overcome the suffering and devastation caused by decades of war, severe drought, floods and extreme economic hardships.
The country frequently experiences earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush region, which sees strong seismic activity.
Some of the biggest tremors rocked the country in 1998, when in February two earthquakes measuring 5.9 and 6 killed more than 4,000 people in northern Afghanistan, and soon after in May a 7-magintude quake again struck the same area and caused around 5,000 deaths. EFE