KABUL: The death toll on Tuesday climbed to 76 in Afghanistan after the powerful earthquake struck on Monday in the Hindu Kush region, officials said, with fears that the casualties 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.
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 that 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.
Meanwhile, the Taliban urged charity organisations not to hold back in delivering aid to Afghan victims, saying militants in the affected areas were ordered to provide “complete help”.
“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,” it added.
However, 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 said.
“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.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.