Need for Aid Is Critical in Afghanistan After Devastating Earthquake

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Credit…Kiana Hyeri for The New York Times

In the village of Azor-Kalai, in the Geyan region, partially destroyed houses made of mud brick are scattered along the hillside – their walls have collapsed, and the ceilings have been broken into pieces. Among them were the white tarpaulins of the makeshift tents that most of the surviving residents had built as temporary shelter.

Even before the devastating earthquake, most families in the village survived day in and day out by earning just enough to feed their families by picking and selling fruits such as apricots, apples, and pine nuts from nearby forests, or by finding day jobs in the nearby area. bazaar, residents say. Many don’t earn more than 5,000 afghanis – or $55 – a month.

Sheep crowded around the tents early on Thursday evening as women sorted out the few things their families had managed to salvage from the rubble.

Padshah Gul, 30, a laborer, stood near what was left of his house, in the fresh night air. Where once there were two large rooms, there was now a pile of rubble and a makeshift tent with blankets and pillows that other relatives had brought for his family after the earthquake.

According to him, a few belongings of the family – pots, kettles, dishes – were still buried under the rubble. Mr. Gul covered his face with his hands, thinking about finding money to rebuild his house.

“We must stay here, winter or spring,” he said, pointing to a makeshift tent.

However, he said he was lucky to be alive.

When the earthquake struck, Mr. Gul and his brother were sleeping near their shared family home in the cool night air. Suddenly, he heard a loud, low rumble from the nearby mountains as boulders began to fall from them, he said.

A few minutes later, the ground beneath him began to shake, and he heard the walls of the house where his relatives slept collapse.

“It was like a bomb going off,” he said.

Credit…Kiana Hyeri for The New York Times

For a terrifying 15 minutes, an earthquake and tremors shook the village around him. When the ground finally stopped, he and his brother threw themselves into what was left of their shared home. Among the dust, he could see the lifeless faces of his murdered cousin and daughter-in-law.

According to him, he also saw limbs protruding from the rubble and heard the voices of his relatives screaming for help. Among them was the piercing scream of his 12-year-old niece.

“We didn’t expect them to survive,” he said, but he and his brother started digging for more than eight hours. By the end, they had rescued at least a dozen other family members, including his niece.

In the center of the village, humanitarian organizations and workers from the Taliban government’s Ministry of Rural Reconstruction and Development set up a makeshift distribution point for aid. As darkness fell, crowds of men helped load sacks of flour, rice and blankets from dusty trucks into bright blue tents, preparing food for distribution.

Many trucks traveled for more than 24 hours from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, slowly rocking along dangerous roads into a remote area. Crowds of Taliban armed security forces surrounded the scene.

Ali Mohammad, 40, arrived at the scene on his motorcycle, hoping to register his name with relief groups and get support to rebuild his house, which had been destroyed.

Three of his cousins ​​died when the house collapsed, he said. The surviving 16 members of his family now lived in a makeshift tent.

“I feel too sad for all of us. Either we will have to wait for help to rebuild our home, or we will be displaced and leave everything destroyed here,” he said.

“I think we’ll leave to get on with our lives,” he added, looking at the tarpaulins and sacks of flour being loaded into the dispenser. “But then we’ll have to start again from scratch.”

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