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Reuters, April 18, 2009

Afghan quake survivors struggling without aid

Villagers were still digging through the remains of their houses by hand on Saturday, though mostly looking for livestock.

By Rafiq Sherzad

Survivors of a strong quake in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan say they spent a freezing night in the rain outside the collapsed remains of their homes because promised government help did not reach them.

Children dead in quake in Eastern Afghanistan

People dead in quake that hit Eastern Afghanistan
Mohammad Tahir Zahir, deputy head of the provincial council of Nangarhar province, said he had attended funerals for, or been personally informed about, at least 40 deaths. (Photo: Reuters & AP)

Two strong quakes shook an area several dozen kilometres (miles) west of the city of Jalalabad on Thursday night, killing at least 19 and injuring dozens more. The local government said it had sent over 200 tents and around 600 blankets to the quake zone, and other assistance was on its way. But residents said they had seen no sign of the help, and spent a frightening night outside, with 7 or 8 aftershocks.

"There are hundreds of families who spent the night outside and it was very cold and raining, our children have become sick, and we haven't received any assistance from the government or others so far," said Del Agha who had lost two children.

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 5.5 magnitude quake hit the area just before 2 a.m. on Friday (2130 GMT on Thursday), followed by a 5.1 magnitude aftershock two hours later that tumbled some buildings that survived the first shock.

Villagers were still digging through the remains of their houses by hand on Saturday, though mostly looking for livestock.

By midday a Reuters witness said there was no sign of first aid or other help arriving in the village of Mir Gadkhel.

The official death toll from the government in Kabul was 19. But Mohammad Tahir Zahir, deputy head of the provincial council of Nangarhar province, said he had attended funerals for, or been personally informed about, at least 40 deaths.

There were 71 wounded survivors, 34 of them in critical condition, he added.

The villages are located between Jalalabad and the capital Kabul, in Nangarhar, a province that sees sporadic attacks by Taliban insurgents. But there were no reports by Saturday of security incidents near the quake zone.

(Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Category: HR Violations, Corruption, Healthcare/Environment - Views: 7066