- KABUL (Reuters) - The
death toll in a series of devastating earthquakes in northern Afghanistan
rose sharply from 2,000 Wednesday as fresh aftershocks hit the area and
the scale of the disaster became clearer.
- The aftershocks from the initial quakes, which struck
on Monday night and Tuesday morning, added danger to relief attempts
rendered hugely difficult by blocked roads.
- Government officials said Tuesday around 2,000 people
had been killed and thousands injured in the initial quakes, which
the market town of Nahrin and surrounding villages. "Casualties have
mounted dramatically after new aftershocks early this morning,"
Ministry spokesman Gulbuddin told Reuters Wednesday.
- "We think the death toll is now far more than 2,000
and is going to go up dramatically as we dig through rubble in Nahrin and
reach outlying villages," he said.
- "There have been many new casualties in Burkah,
20 km (12 miles) north of Nahrin," he added. "So far no
aid has reached the area because of destroyed roads."
- Interim leader Hamid Karzai was to visit Nahrin on
"He wants to see the situation first hand and speak to the
his spokesman said.
- What he will see, in the words of U.N. spokesman Yusuf
Hassan, is "utter devastation."
- "It is impossible to get to many villages north
of Nahrin because roads are blocked by massive landslides," he
- "On the southern side of Nahrin three villages
to it are 80 percent destroyed," he added.
- "Aftershocks are still continuing. They are very
dangerous," Hassan quoted a U.N. team on the spot as saying.
- "IT IS DESPERATE"
- The initial quakes devastated Nahrin, a district capital
of mud-brick buildings with a population of 10,000 very near the epicenter
of the quakes in the rugged Hindu Kush mountains. The district has a
of around 80,000.
- Statistics on the U.S. Geological Survey quake bulletin
Web site (http://earthquake.usgs suggested the quakes were relatively
making their impact on the surface all the more severe.
- "The tens of thousands who have fled their homes
have settled in deserts and hills in the open air without food, shelter
or water," Gulbuddin said. "It is desperate."
- The interim government has appealed for international
help and met United Nations officials, aid agencies and international
Wednesday to coordinate their response.
- "It is beyond the interim government to deal with
this tragedy," Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni told Reuters on Tuesday.
Although U.N. aid agencies have rushed thousands of blankets and tents,
as well as food and clothes, to the area, the blocked roads and difficult
mountain conditions mean a colossal task for rescue and relief
- The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs said two of the three roads into the immediate area were
- Traffic from Kabul to the quake-hit zone also slowed
to a crawl Tuesday after two trucks overturned in the high-altitude Salang
- To make matters worse, experts said roads into the area
had been heavily mined during years conflict between the opposition
Alliance and the Taliban.
- "There are a lot of anti-tank mines on the roads
into Nahrin," Guy Willoughby, director of the HALO Trust demining
group, told Reuters.
- "The town was on the front lines between the
Alliance and the Taliban, and the Northern Alliance laid a lot of anti-tank
mines on the roads to stop them taking the town."
- SECOND IN A MONTH
- The earthquake disaster was the second to hit northern
Afghanistan this month. More than 100 people were killed by a landslide
in a remote village in Samangan province on March 3 by the previous
- Afghanistan is struggling with the impact of a long
insecurity and the aftermath of fighting between U.S.-led forces and the
former Taliban rulers.
- The U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado said the first
shock, 6.0 on the Richter scale, struck at 7:26 p.m. Monday and the
was very close to Nahrin.
- It was felt in Mazar-i-Sharif, 200 km (120 miles)
of Nahrin and in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
- Another quake at 2:15 a.m. Tuesday measured 5.0 on the
Richter scale, USGS said.
- The British-led International Security Assistance Force
of peacekeepers sent an assessment team to the earthquake area and the
Pentagon said it was considering what it could do.
- But at Bagram air base, command center just north of
Kabul for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, the military said it had
few resources spare to help the aid effort, although a team would help
try and unblock the Salang tunnel.
- "We are looking at the earthquake, but I would tell
you that we are a very, very purposefully lean combat headquarters,"
Major Bryan Hilferty said.
- "We came over here with very little equipment and
very few people -- just enough to do the job which is find, capture or
kill the al-Qaeda terrorists. We don't have a lot of extra stuff to
- The United States has about 6,000 troops hunting al Qaeda
and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and a large number of aircraft in the
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