July 03, 2022
Qari Hakeem Ullah, a 36-year-old resident of Shehr Gyan area, Gyan district of Paktika province of Afghanistan, is among the survivors of the powerful earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan earlier last week.
Many were still sleeping when the earthquake jolted the locality. Hakeem Ullah lost seven members of his family including his brother, his brother’s wife, a son and two daughters of the deceased couple, a child of another brother and a daughter of his sister. Five families were living in a single house among which one family of his brother completely vanished as a result of the room collapsing because under its jolts. He said that the remaining members of his family had also sustained injuries while escaping the house.
“No one can describe the situation of that night,” he said. “If a person narrates it, he or she ends up breaking into tears.”
The earthquake struck around two in the morning amidst rainfall. “When I ran outside my home to look someone to help, I heard painful screams of people who were crying inside their destroyed homes; mothers were calling and searching for their children and children asking their mothers for help as a number of them were still stuck under the debris of collapsed houses.”
About the rescue operation, he said that when the area was hit by the earthquake, announcements were made and other people from nearby villages called through phone calls. “Our people are so good in such rescue operations; within two hours they rescued injured persons and also took out dead bodies that were trapped,” he said.
He narrated that during the next two to three days, about 300 funeral prayers were offered in different affected villages, adding that the villagers could did not even have the power and strength to dig up graves, so people from other villages prepared graves for the martyred persons.
Along with human losses, Qari Hakeem Ullah has suffered financial losses as well. He said that the worth of their house was around 2.5 million Afghani, adding that in the disaster they also lost their animals including cows, goats and sheeps.
“Aftershocks are observed on a daily basis in the area. Women and children are still in shock and they feel fear when they recall the night. Many of the women and children need psychological treatment and therapy to make help them cope with the trauma,” he said.
About diseases in the area, he said that mostly children were suffering from cholera as water was contaminated, adding that some people were facing vomiting issues too because a number of dead animals still remained in collapsed houses and bad odor from their bodies had been spreading in the air. “The authorities should dump the dead bodies of animals away from their tents to control the spread of disease,” he said.
Molvi Sadar, 38–year–old resident of Rajy village of Gyan district of Paktika province, did not suffer any human loss in the incident but his house’s second floor was completely destroyed while the ground floor also suffered several cracks and damages.
“The tremor hit the area when they were sleeping. The earthquake shook us, and we rushed out of the rooms. All other members of my family were fine, but one of my sons remained in the room and because the wall collapsed, he sustained injuries but he is now out of danger,” he said.
When the earthquake hit, Sadar rushed to next-oor neighbours where he found some people dead and some injured under collapsed roofs. “With the support of almighty Allah, I rescued some critically injured persons in my family. Then I heard crying and screams from another house, I went there but alone I was unable to help those who buried in debris so I called some other people and then we rescued the family where I found a 10-year-old girl dead,” he added.
About another house he said: “Then we rushed to another house where some persons had already died and the other four who were alive were buried in mud. I along with another person tried to rescue them but unfortunately a fresh jolt hit the area and as result the remaining four embraced martyrdom which was a heartbreaking moment for me”.
“In every village of the district mostly families had lost their loved ones and had also suffered from huge financial loss,” he expressed. About his financial loss he said, “each and everything which I had, has been lost in the disaster. My house was worth 7.5 million Afghani and now it’s impossible for me to construct it again”.
Many of the local residents are now living in tents provided by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and other humanitarian organisations. These tents, while necessary for immediate relief, will be unable to protect the disaster-struck residents once winter rolls around in two months as they will not be able to provide shelter from the rain and snow. “We need the international community to provide aid to affected families in order to help them reconstruct their houses before the winter season,” said Sadar.
Noor Ahmad Hairan, a local Afghan journalist who has visited the earthquake hit area said that Gyan and Barmal districts of Paktika province were affected by the earthquake more. He said that the rescue operation is still underway in the areas by different humanitarian organisations and they search dead bodies in destroyed houses and buildings. He expressed that both districts did not have developed state of the art health facilities which is why critical injuries had to be shifted to nearby provinces. “The urgent need of the people is a residential camp,” he said.
Spokesperson of Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, Muhammad Naseem Haqqani said that so far 10,000 houses were damaged in which about 4,500 were completely destroyed in which more than 1,000 people were died while nearly 3,000 people sustained injuries in Paktika and Khost provinces of Afghanistan. “For those people whose houses were completely destroyed, to provide permanent shelter to them a mechanism and plan needs to be devised for it,” he added.
He mentioned that tents were provided to those who did not have shelter and on daily basis food and non-food items were provided to the affected families. About financial assistance, he said that Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan had announced 100 million Afghanis for affected families, adding the government was providing 100,000 Afghanis to each among those families who had human loss while 50,000 were given to the injured persons in each family. About the prevention of waterborne disease, he said that healthcare teams of different humanitarian organisations including Afghanistan Red Crescent, Red Crescent, and Afghan government were working in the area and clean drinking water was also supplied to the areas. To a query, he said that health experts were also aiding those children and women who were still struggling from the trauma.
Abdur Razzaq is a freelance writer. All information and facts provided are the sole responsibility of the writer.