Afghanistan earthquake: Crews search debris for survivors as much-needed aid arrives

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June 23 (UPI) — Rescue crews in Afghanistan were still searching for survivors on Thursday following a strong earthquake that hit the eastern part of the country and killed more than 1,000 people.

Authorities say that more than 1,600 people are believed to be injured and there’s likely an untold number of people who are still missing.

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The 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck early on Wednesday near Khost, which is located about 100 miles southeast of Kabul near the Afghan border with Pakistan.

Doctors on the ground in the disaster zone said they fear that many children are among the dead.

As crews search debris for survivors, shipments of humanitarian aid arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday from neighboring countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Qatar.

“Relief agencies’ assistance included health assistance, food, tents, and blankets, but the crisis is widespread in the area and is not enough,” Sanaullah Masoum, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Paktika, said according to The New York Times. “We call on the aid agencies to provide more food, health, and humanitarian assistance.”

United Nations officials say that the quake destroyed nearly 2,000 homes.

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“The United Nations in Afghanistan is fully mobilized. Our teams are already on the ground assessing the needs and providing initial support,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “We count on the international community to help support the hundreds of families hit by this latest disaster. Now is the time for solidarity.” 

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that roughly $15 million in aid is needed to meet the scope of the crisis.

The response to the disaster has been slowed due to various reasons, including inadequate infrastructure and inconsistent management by the ruling Taliban, which took over control of Afghanistan last August when U.S. forces withdrew from the country.