Aid Begins Reaching Quake Victims in Eastern Afghanistan

Aid began reaching parts of eastern Afghanistan on Friday to help those injured and left homeless by this week’s deadly earthquake, as the death toll from the quake rose and an aftershock hit the same area.

Afghan state media said Friday that Wednesday’s quake killed 1,150 people, while a new aftershock left five more people dead. The United Nations has confirmed the deaths of 1,036 people from the earthquake.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said Friday it has rushed tons of relief items and support staff to the region.

In a statement, the UNHCR said it had dispatched supplies that include 600 tents, 4,200 blankets, 1,200 water containers, 1,200 buckets, 1,200 plastic sheets, 600 kitchen sets and 1,200 solar lamps to the area. The agency said the supplies were sent from Kabul Thursday in nine trucks.

The 5.9 earthquake struck Wednesday in remote areas of eastern and southeastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. The worst-hit provinces are Paktika and Khost, with nearly 3,000 homes in the provinces destroyed, according to state media.

UNICEF, another U.N. agency, said Friday its teams were on the ground within hours of the quake.

Speaking from the capital, Kabul, UNICEF Afghanistan representative Mohamed Ayoya, said the agency is providing emergency medicine and medical supplies, as well as kits to treat children with diarrhea and to help prevent the spread of cholera, a high risk because of damaged water systems and limited hygiene.

He said 121 children died in the earthquake but said that figure is likely to rise. Another 70 children were injured.

Aid also began arriving from Pakistan, Iran, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries have announced they are sending aid, including India, Japan and South Korea.

Afghan disaster ministry spokesman Mohammad Nassim Haqqani told Reuters news agency the country does not have enough supplies – particularly drugs and other medical supplies – to deal with the aftermath of such a massive earthquake.

Haqqani told Reuters the search for survivors of the quake had ended just 48 hours after it struck, without detailing why the search was called off so quickly.

The United States says the earthquake was the worst to hit the country in the last 20 years.  Officials say in some areas the quake buried entire families, as it took place while many people were sleeping in mud houses.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.

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