Pakistan sends planeload of aid to quake-hit Afghanistan

Delivery is part of a global effort to assist residents of mountainous Khost and Paktika provinces where thousands of homes were destroyed

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A Pakistani military cargo plane carrying relief goods for the homeless and injured of Afghanistan’s earthquake landed at the Khost airport on Saturday, bringing tents, food and medical supplies for the mountainous region.

Thousands were left affected by this week’s powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, which state media said killed 1,150 people. An aftershock on Friday claimed five more lives.

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul, said the relief goods sent by Pakistan on Saturday were given to Taliban officials.

“It was our duty to help our Afghan brethren at this difficult time,” he said.

Neighbouring Pakistan was often accused of harbouring Afghanistan’s Taliban fighters before they assumed power last August as US-led international forces withdrew from the country after 20 years.

Since the takeover, Islamabad has led the way in pressing the world to engage with the Taliban government.

Earlier, Pakistan’s government and a Pakistani charity had sent 13 lorries carrying food, tents, medicines and other essential items to Afghanistan.

A 19-member team from Pakistan comprised physicians and paramedics has been helping Afghanistan’s Taliban-run government in Khost.

The quake struck a remote, deeply impoverished region of small towns and villages tucked among rough mountains near the Pakistani border, collapsing stone and mud-brick homes and in some cases killing entire families.

Nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in Paktika and Khost provinces, state media reported.

Officials said Saturday that Pakistan has opened its border in the north-west to transport critically injured Afghans to hospitals in Pakistan. The number of Afghans who arrived for medical treatment is not known.

Among the dead from Wednesday’s magnitude 6.1 quake were 121 children, and that figure is expected to climb, according to the Afghanistan representative of Unicef, the UN children’s agency. He said about 70 children were injured.

Dawlat Khan in the district of Gayan in Paktika province said five members of his family were injured and his house destroyed by the earthquake.

“We are facing many problems. We need all kind of support, and we request the international community and Afghans who can help to come forward and help us,” he told the Associated Press.

Rutted roads through the mountains, already slow to drive on, were made worse by damage from the earthquake and rain.

The International Red Cross has five hospitals in the region, but damage to the roads made it difficult for those in the worse-hit areas to reach them, said Lucien Christen, ICRC spokesman in Afghanistan.

An Afghan military helicopter delivered food and other necessities to people in Gayan on Saturday. Dozens of men and children gathered in an open area under the hot sun to wait for food, water and tents from the Afghan Red Crescent.

The aid organisation said it would distribute relief items to about 1,000 families in the district.

At Urgan, the main city in Paktika province, medical supplies from the World Health Organisation were delivered to the main hospital.

Unicef delivered blankets and basic supplies to quake-hit villages, as well as tarpaulins for the homeless to use as tents.

In the district of Spera in Khost province, Unicef sent water purification tablets along with soap and other hygiene products.

Aid groups said they feared cholera could break out after damage to water and sewerage systems.

Updated: June 25, 2022, 6:00 PM