“People are digging grave after grave,” said Afghanistan’s head of the Information and Culture Department.
Qatar has sent aid to Afghanistan after hundreds were killed after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Asian country on Wednesday, with Doha’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani expressing condolences.
The destructive earthquake, which hit Paktika and Khost provinces, resulted in the death of over 1,000 people, with more than 1,500 other wounded, according to the Taliban’s the Culture and Information Department, Al Jazeera reported.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the magnitude of the earthquake early on Wednesday stood at 5.9, revising an initial estimate of 6.1. The epicentre of the quake was about 46 kilometres from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the USGS confirmed.
“People are digging grave after grave,” said Muhammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in devastated Paktika, according to Al Jazeera.
Zabiullah Mujahid took to Twitter to announce that a series of aid cargoes have been delivered to the hard-hit areas, coming from Qatar, Iran, and Pakistan.
“A Qatari plane arrived in Kabul last night to help quake victims,” the official tweeted, noting two other humanitarian aid planes arrived from Iran, while four trucks of food and other necessities were sent by Pakistan.
“It is raining also, and all houses are destroyed. People are still trapped under the rubble,” Huzaifa told journalists, as per Al Jazeera’s report.
The Japanese government also plans on providing assistance to Afghanistan, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Earlier, interior ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi said the death toll was likely to rise “as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains and it will take some time to collect details.”
The earthquake-hit location poses difficulties for aid to properly reach those affected.
“Authorities have sent helicopters and are calling for aid agencies to come in and rescue people from the rubble. But it’s a remote area and harder to reach,” Afghan journalist Ali M Latifi, reporting from Kabul, said.
“Every house you went to there was eight or nine bodies” of people killed in the earthquake in Barmal district of Paktika province, a journalist on site said, according to Latifi.
Natural disruptions did not stop there as heavy rain, which resulted in the grounding of planned aid helicopter flights to Paktika and Khost, also made aid difficult to get to those areas.
Crippling United States sanction on Afghanistan has dampened economic prosperity in the country and worsened the humanitarian situation, as reporters on the ground say.
“The US is directly responsible for how difficult it is to get aid, assistance and money into Afghanistan. Making it more difficult for aid organisations to operate at such a critical time,” Latifi tweeted.
Journalists call on the United States to “unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets” and halt the crushing sanctions. However, aid agencies explain that sanctions exemptions and the limited release of some frozen funds in Afghanistan do not cover the issue of overall economic collapse in the country.
Residents in the remote area searched for victims dead or alive through the rubble by digging with their bare hands, according to footage revealed by the Bakhtar News Agency.
At least 2,000 homes were destroyed in the region.
Tremors were also felt in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, however, no immediate news of damage or casualties were reported there.