World News

Afghan quake survivors struggling without aid

MIR GADKHEL (Reuters) - Survivors of a strong quake in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan said on Saturday they spent a cold night in the rain outside the remains of their homes because promised government help did not reach them.

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Two strong quakes shook an area several dozen km (miles) west of the city of Jalalabad on Thursday night, killing at least 19 people and injuring dozens more.

A Reuters reporter in the village saw local authorities distribute around five million afghanis ($100,000) to the families of victims. They promised more aid including tents and food.

The local government earlier said it had sent over 200 tents and around 600 blankets to the quake zone, but residents said they had seen no sign of the help, and spent a frightening night outside, with seven or eight aftershocks.

“There are hundreds of families who spent the night outside and it was very cold and raining. Our children have become sick, and we haven’t received any assistance from the government or others so far,” said Del Agha, who had lost two children.

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 5.5 magnitude quake hit the area just before 2 a.m. on Friday (2130 GMT on Thursday), followed by a 5.1 magnitude aftershock two hours later. The aftershock tumbled some buildings that survived the first shock.

Villagers from the hamlet of Mir Gadkhel were still digging through the remains of their houses by hand on Saturday, mostly looking for livestock.

The official death toll from the government in Kabul was 19. But Mohammad Tahir Zahir, deputy head of the provincial council of Nangarhar province, said he had personal knowledge of at least 40 deaths. There were 71 wounded survivors, 34 of them in critical condition, he added.

The villages are between Jalalabad and the capital Kabul, in Nangarhar, a province that sees sporadic attacks by Taliban insurgents. But there were no reports by Saturday of security incidents near the quake zone.

($1 = 50 afghanis)

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul)

Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani