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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Desperate Afghan-Pakistan quake victims appeal for aid
By Masroor GILANI
Islamabad (AFP) Oct 27, 2015


Fact box on Afghan-Pakistan earthquake
Islamabad (AFP) Oct 27, 2015 - At least 350 people are known to have died after a massive quake hit Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the toll expected to rise as rescuers reach remote mountainous areas.

Below is a list of what is known so far about the 7.5 magnitude quake:

-- Pakistan's disaster management authorities reported 241 people killed and more than 1,600 injured.

-- Afghan officials confirmed at least 115 dead and hundreds more injured, but have not offered a full breakdown.

-- The Afghan toll includes 12 schoolgirls trampled to death in a stampede as they fled their classrooms in Takhar province when the quake hit, 35 others were injured.

-- In Afghanistan the confirmed breakdown of the death toll so far includes: at least 30 people in Kunar province; 12 in Takhar province; nine in Badakhshan province near the epicentre; eight in Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, and at least two in northern Baghlan province

-- In Pakistan at least 30 people were known to have died in northern tribal areas, 185 in the northwest, nine in Gilgit-Baltistan and one in Pakistani Kashmir.

-- The epicentre of the quake was located in Badakhshan. A large part of the province, with its population of nearly 1 million people, is effectively under Taliban control.

-- More than 1,500 homes have been reported damaged or destroyed in Badakhshan.

-- The worst affected areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are remote and mountainous, with limited infrastructure.

-- Communication lines have been be severely damaged, hampering efforts to reach survivors and assess the full scale of the disaster.

-- India has pledged to help both Afghanistan and Pakistan with the rescue effort.

-- The quake happened at a depth of 213.5 kilometres (132 miles), much deeper than a 7.6 magnitude quake that struck Pakistan in 2005 killing more than 75,000 people and displacing some 3.5 million.

-- Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

-- The quake was also felt in India, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

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Desperate survivors appealed for food and blankets Tuesday after a devastating earthquake killed more than 360 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as harsh weather, rugged terrain and pockets of militancy hampered rescue efforts.

The Afghan Taliban urged relief agencies to push ahead with aid deliveries to victims of Monday's powerful earthquake, which destroyed thousands of homes, triggered landslides and stampedes, and knocked out communication lines.

Mass burial ceremonies were conducted in both countries as officials warned that the death toll could spike as entire communities remain inaccessible amid freezing winter conditions.

Pakistani officials were unable to reach authorities in the remote district of Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for a second day to see how its population of nearly half a million people had fared.

"There is no way to communicate with the officials in Kohistan, the communication lines have been disrupted and roads blocked so we cannot say anything about the damage there," a police official in the northwestern city of Peshawar told AFP.

The bulk of the casualties recorded so far were in Pakistan, where 248 people were killed, including 202 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and more than 1,600 injured, disaster management authorities said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to Shangla in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa -- believed to be one of the worst-hit districts with 49 reported dead so far -- where he pledged compensation for damaged homes, state media reported.

In Gandao village in Shangla the quake left homes completely flattened or riddled with cracks, forcing most of the population to camp out in the open amid freezing winter rain.

People desperately appealed to the government for quilts, blankets, sweaters and food rations as snowy conditions set in.

"We have nothing to eat and wear in the cold," resident Hakim Khan, 60, whose 12-year-old nephew was killed in the quake.

"My family members are forced to wait for help under the open sky."

- 'Deadly threats' -

Afghan officials said at least 115 people were confirmed dead and hundreds more injured, with casualties reported from around half a dozen of the country's 34 provinces, and more than 7,600 homes reported damaged.

In one of the most horrifying incidents to emerge so far, a dozen Afghan schoolgirls were trampled to death as they rushed to escape their classrooms in remote northern Takhar province when the quake struck.

Bystanders rushed the dazed and terrified survivors to hospital, many lying limp in the arms of their rescuers, as doctors tried reviving some of them by pumping their chests.

Flag-draped coffins arrived at a local cemetery on Tuesday as tearful relatives of the girls gathered for mass burials, as some of the survivors were flown in military choppers to Kabul for treatment.

"Children in earthquake-hit areas... are facing further deadly threats as extreme conditions and insecurity cut off communities from aid," the UN children's agency UNICEF said.

Large swathes of Badakhshan, the remote province where the epicentre is located, and other quake-stricken areas are effectively controlled by the Taliban, posing a huge challenge to any official aid efforts.

The growing presence of Taliban fighters is hindering access of aid workers to earthquake victims in urgent need of help, the head of a Western charity told AFP.

But the militants Tuesday urged aid organisations not to hold back in delivering emergency relief, and vowed their fighters would provide "complete help" in the affected areas.

- 'Doomsday repeated' -

For many in Pakistan, Monday's quake brought back traumatic memories of a 7.6 magnitude quake that struck in October 2005, killing more than 75,000 people and displacing some 3.5 million.

Muzaffarabad resident Shehnaz Rasheed, 34, whose daughter was killed in the 2005 disaster, said that as the quake struck she feared "doomsday was being repeated".

"I ran towards my children's school leaving everything behind -- I did not even close the doors of my house," she told AFP, explaining she was frantic to reach her two sons so she could "die together with them if we have to die".

Authorities were struggling to ascertain the damage in the northern district of Chitral, where a local official said the quake had damaged the water supply system.

"Around 80,000 people don't have access to clean drinking water and it's our top priority to restore the water supply," he said.

In other remote areas residents -- including children and the elderly -- were helping with relief work, many of them digging through piles of rubble for survivors.

Pakistan army helicopters were evacuating victims Tuesday to the provincial capital Peshawar and Rawalpindi, which borders Islamabad.

The military has also sent medical teams, tents and rations to affected areas.

The quake was centred near Jurm in northeast Afghanistan, 250 kilometres (160 miles) from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213.5 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

In Nepal a quake in April and a strong aftershock in May killed more than 8,900 people.

Taliban vow to help Afghanistan after deadly quake
Kabul (AFP) Oct 27, 2015 - The Taliban Tuesday urged charity organisations not to hold back in delivering aid to Afghan victims of a devastating earthquake, saying militants in the affected areas were ordered to provide "complete help".

At least 76 people were killed in Afghanistan after the powerful quake struck Monday in the Hindu Kush region, officials said, with fears that the toll could rise as the full extent of the devastation emerges.

Rescuers are battling to access some of the worst-affected areas across multiple provinces that are effectively under militant control, a huge challenge to any official aid efforts.

But the Taliban on Tuesday promised to pave access for aid organisations.

"The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) calls on... charitable organisations to not hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies to the victims of this earthquake," the group said on its website.

"It similarly orders its Mujahideen in the affected areas to lend their complete help to the victims and facilitate those giving charity to the needy."

Afghan disaster management officials say areas around the quake's epicentre in the remote province of Badakhshan, as well as neighbouring provinces such as Takhar and Kunar, have suffered huge devastation.

Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said an initial assessment shows around 4,000 houses have been damaged by the powerful quake.

"Some 76 people including women and children were killed and 268 others were injured in the quake," he said, warning that the toll was expected to rise.

The United Nations estimates that the Taliban's reach is the widest since 2001, with more than half of the districts across Afghanistan at risk.

The growing presence of Taliban fighters is hindering access of aid workers to earthquake victims in urgent need of help, the head of a Western charity told AFP.

"We have no presence in the affected areas, limiting our chances of a fair assessment of the security situation on the ground," he said on condition of anonymity.

Monday's quake was centred near Jurm in northeast Afghanistan, 250 kilometres (160 miles) from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213.5 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The tremor, which lasted at least one minute, shook buildings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, sending thousands of frightened people rushing into the streets.


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