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Thursday 23 November 2017

Rescuers scramble to deliver aid to earthquake survivors

Afghan men carry their belongings after an earthquake in Takhar province (AP)
Afghan men carry their belongings after an earthquake in Takhar province (AP)

Afghanistan and Pakistan are scrambling to get aid to survivors of this week's magnitude-7.5 earthquake as the region's death toll from the tremor rose to 385.

Pakistan's disaster management authority said the nation's figure stands at 267, with 220 killed in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and 47 elsewhere in the country.

Afghanistan has reported 115 dead, while three people died on the Indian side of the disputed region of Kashmir.

Casualty figures are likely to leap once relief workers return from remote villages that can be accessed only by foot or donkey.

The quake, which struck on Monday, was centred in Afghanistan's sparsely populated Badakhshan province bordering Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.

In battered north-western Pakistan, more than 10,000 homes were damaged, as well as 147 schools.

Funerals are continuing and in Pakistan's worst-hit town of Shangla, residents have demanded government help to rebuild homes.

The head of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, Wais Ahmad Barmak, told parliament that 7,630 homes had been destroyed and around 1,000 animals killed.

The poverty-stricken region is vast, with mountains and valleys that make it difficult to reach affected areas. The Taliban is active in some parts, further complicating access, he added.

Survey teams have been sent to assess casualties and damage in areas that can be reached only on foot or donkey. Once the information they bring back has been assessed, food and non-food supplies will be delivered, Mr Barmak said.

Badakhshan is often hit by earthquakes and other disasters, including floods and landslides. Other regions such as Nuristan and Kunar provinces in the east were presenting access challenges, he told parliament.

"We have got some problems like security challenges and road blocks, and unfortunately all roads from Nuristan's capital to its districts are still blocked and some roads are blocked in Kunar too."

According to Pakistan's disaster management authority, the quake damaged 10,586 houses in the country's north west. Shangla is the worst affected town, with 49 people killed and 228 injured. Another 32 people died in Chitral, the Pakistani town closest to the epicentre of the quake.

The authority said it had distributed 15,519 tents, 25,700 blankets and tons of food. Further supplies would be delivered to remote areas once roads had been cleared and reopened.

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited the north-western city of Peshawar to attend a briefing on quake damages. In televised comments, he pledged his government would provide "maximum compensation" to victims.

Press Association

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