Death toll continues to rise from Afghan quake

More than 360 people are known to have died, most of them in Pakistan, and at least 2,000 were injured on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

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Attention is now turning to preventing the outbreak of disease.

The earthquake hit north-east of Kabul in Afghanistan’s Badakhstan province, one of the poorest regions in the country.

Mass burial ceremonies have been conducted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with officials warning the death toll could rise sharply in the oncoming winter conditions.

Along with the hundreds of people already known dead, the earthquake has destroyed thousand of homes, while triggering landslides and knocking out communication lines.

One survivor in Badakhstan has described what he felt inside his family home when it hit.

 

“I was praying when the earthquake happened. I didn’t move at first. When it got worse, my father and sister moved out, and I got stuck inside the house with my mother and couldn’t move out. My father kept calling for me to come out, but, when the walls collapsed, we got caught inside the house.”

 

The 7.5-magnitude quake, which appears to have caused the most death and damage in Pakistan, was felt as far away as India and Tajikistan.

World Health Organisation spokesman Christian Lindmeier says the WHO is expecting a range of health problems as a result of the quake.

 

“Apart from the immediate trauma and injuries, we can expect to see a number of health risks, such as waterborne diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, Hepatitis A and E, acute respiratory infections, other vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, pertussis, tetanus and so on, so forth. Then, of course, we have post-traumatic stress disorders, wound infections, injuries, malaria, dengue and so on and so forth.”

 

It is the second major earthquake this month to hit northern Afghanistan, where security issues are also preventing humanitarian aid from reaching survivors.

Afghan deputy presidential spokesman Zafar Hashimi says the government will provide emergency funding to those affected.

 

“The Afghan government provided an emergency fund of 50 million Afghanis for these nine provinces and other aids. That include blankets, tents and food, so that people who are in their relatives’ houses and other places of shelter could get emergency food.”

 

The Taliban, which has conducted a renewed campaign against the Western-backed government across the country this year, is urging aid agencies not to hold back delivering relief.

They have indicated they will not stand in the way of aid efforts and say they have ordered their fighters to help the victims.