Search for survivors ends in Afghanistan after earthquake kills over 1,000 people

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Authorities in Afghanistan have ended search operations after a powerful 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the country’s southeastern region on Wednesday, killing 1,150 people and injuring 2,000 others.

A 4.2 magnitude aftershock in southeastern Afghanistan followed the quake two days later on Friday morning, according to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department.

At least five died and 11 were injured from the smaller earthquake, said state media in initial reports. The Bakhtar news agency said the quake struck Paktika’s Gayan district.

Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, a spokesperson for the disaster ministry, announced the end of rescue operations on Friday.

The quake struck about 44km from the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan at a depth of 51km, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

“The search operation has finished, 1,000 are dead and the injured are around 2,000, both serious and superficial injuries,” Mr Haqqani said, according to Reuters.

The earthquake reduced houses and buildings to rubble and thousands were believed to be trapped underneath. Rescue operations were impeded by poor communication and lack of proper roads.

Also read: ‘Entire villages laid to waste’: Rescuers desperately try to reach survivors of deadly quake

Mr Haqqani did not, however, provide any explanation for why the search operations were called off after 48 hours.

“The health ministry does not have enough drugs, we need medical aid and other necessities because it’s a big disaster,” Mr Haqqani said.

The quake, Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, comes as the country continues to struggle under financial and hunger crises under the Taliban, which took over after the US withdrew last August, ending two decades of war.

The Taliban takeover has cut out vital international financing to the country. After Wednesday’s earthquake, the Taliban sought international aid to help in rehabilitation efforts.

Tremors from the powerful earthquake were felt as far away as India as well as in neighbouring Pakistan. Indian authorities have sent a team to the country to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The earthquake has left hundreds homeless.

Survivors said they are waiting for aid as houses and properties have been completely destroyed.

“But everything was under the rubble,” a survivor named Agha Jan told BBC News. “Even my shovel. There was nothing I could do. I called out to my cousins to help but when we pulled my family out, they were already all dead.”

“Whose names can I give you? So many of my relatives were martyred, three sisters, my niece, my daughter, young children,” another survivor Habib Gul said.

The victims are also at risk of a possible cholera outbreak, according to the United Nations, which is helping provide aid.

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