Afghan survivor: If another quake doesn’t kill us, poverty might. Source: ALJAZEERA

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News|Earthquakes

Afghan survivor: If another quake doesn’t kill us, poverty might

More than 1,000 people have been killed and some 2,000 injured in Afghanistan’s worst earthquake in 20 years.

Afghan people keep their clothes to dry on dried out shrubs near the ruins of houses damaged by an earthquake in Bernal district, Paktika provin
Afghan people spread their clothes out to dry on dried on shrubs near the ruins of houses damaged by an earthquake in Bernal, Paktika province [File: Ahmad Sahel Arman / AFP]

By Stefanie Glinski

Published On 28 Jun 202228 Jun 2022

Gayan, Afghanistan – When a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan last week, Naqib lost his home and nearly his whole family. His parents and four siblings now lie buried on a hilltop overlooking the remote district of Gayan in hard-hit Paktika province. The 11-year-old now only has one sister, Nesab, who is four.

The little girl is glued to his side, quietly listening as her brother recalls the June 22 disaster.

“I was buried under the rubble with Nesab. We were screaming. My uncle came and helped us out of the destroyed house. It was dark, but I saw that nobody else in my family was screaming. They were all dead.”

In the morning, Naqib watched as relatives washed the bodies of the dead before burying them. It happened in a blur, and his eyes fill with tears at the memory. His sister is confused, he admitted, one moment asking when her parents will wake up, the next declaring them dead.

A total of 35 people have died in the children’s extended family; 45 were injured, some of them severely.

INTERACTIVE - Afghanistan earthquake timeline

Naqib’s story is all too common. More than 1,000 people have been killed and 2,000 injured in what has been recorded as Afghanistan’s worst earthquake in 20 years. According to the country’s Ministry of Public Health, 35 entire villages have been destroyed or damaged. In Gayan alone, at least 250 people have died.

Families affected by the disaster now say they are struggling to see a future in the already impoverished area that has long been cut off from the rest of the country, with no electricity and only poor phone signal available.

Since the earthquake, aid agencies, Taliban officials and Afghans from all over the country have flooded in to help. Dozens of helicopter flights have brought in aid and evacuated the injured, while truckloads full of food, blankets and tents navigated the difficult terrain all the way from the capital, Kabul, a roughly nine-hour drive.

“This area saw a lot of fighting during the war, so only a few people came here,” said Naqib’s uncle and now closest relative, Rahmatullah Rahmani. He was referring to fighting between the US invasion of 2001 and its withdrawal in 2021, during which time government forces, supported by the US and other Western forces, fought the Taliban.

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