Quake survivors

Quake survivors eating grass to stay alive

FAIZABAD (AFP) 16-7-1998 - Relief helicopters took to the skies over quake-hit northeast Afghanistan Saturday to drop vital supplies of food, amid reports desperate survivors are eating grass to stay alive.

One week after the massive temblor devastated scores of villages in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range, the relief effort has been severely hampered by bad weather and a shortage of helicopters.

Torrential rain has caused mudslides that have wreaked further havoc in the shattered regions of Chah-ab, Shahr-e-Bozurg and Rostak -- where many villagers have been without food or drinking water since the quake struck.

"We lost a whole day to bad weather and now there is very real concern for survivors," UN spokesman Rupet Colville told AFP.

"The rain has increased the urgent need to get food and shelter to these villages where conditions must be appalling. We have to also consider the mudslides may have caused more victims," he said.

"The only food people have is grass, that is all people are eating. Children are dying because there is nothing to eat and it is getting worse and worse every day," said one man form Chow Ghani village.

"The spring and all the drinking water has been covered by landslides. I can't describe it," said the villager, who walked out of Chow Ghani four days ago.

Some 100 villages have been hit by the quake, including 28 that were completely destroyed, and the death toll is expected to top 5000.

However only handful of villagers can be reached by road and the bad weather grounded the three Red Cross and UN helicopters for 24 vital hours.

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