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Death Toll In Afghan Quake Rises To 1,150 As Authorities Stop Search For Survivors

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A Taliban spokesman said supplies of medicine and other critical aid were inadequate. 

An aftershock has killed five people in eastern Afghanistan just hours after Taliban authorities said they have ended search-and-rescue operations from a major earthquake two days ago and raised the death toll to at least 1,150 in the war-torn country's worst such disaster in two decades.

Abdul Wahid Rayan, the Taliban director of the state-run Bakhtar news agency, said on June 24 that the death toll had risen to 1,150 from previous reports of 1,000 killed. Rayan said at least 1,600 people were injured.

Pakistan's Meteorological Department, meanwhile, reported on June 24 that a 4.2-magnitude quake had struck the region, which the Bakhtar news agency said took five more lives in the hard-hit Gayan district.

The disaster has posed a challenge for the Taliban-led government, which is largely isolated as a result of its hard-line Islamist policies toward human rights, especial with regard to the freedoms of women and girls.

The country is already battling a severe humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021.

Earlier on June 24, Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry for Disaster Management, told the media that 10,000 houses were partially or completely destroyed in the earthquake in a remote area near the border with Pakistan.

"The search operation has finished," Haqqani said, without giving an explanation as to why the search for survivors was being called off some 48 hours after the temblor.

On June 23, Haqqani told RFE/RL that it was difficult to get accurate information about the damage because of the poor condition of the telephone network in some areas.

He said supplies of medicine and other critical aid were inadequate.

The 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck about 160 kilometers southeast of Kabul, in a mountainous region with small settlements. Paktika and Khost provinces were worst hit.

Aid organizations such as the local Red Crescent and World Food Program have stepped in to assist the most vulnerable families with food and other emergency needs like tents and sleeping mats in Paktika and Khost provinces.

Wahidullah Amani, a spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP) for Afghanistan, told RFE/RL that WFP and other partners were on their way to the affected areas.

Rescuers struggled earlier to reach remote areas as efforts were hampered by bad roads and heavy rain and as the country's Taliban rulers called on the international community to make donations to help with relief efforts.

Rescuers Battle To Reach Remote Epicenter Of Deadly Afghan Earthquake
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that eight trucks carrying food and other supplies had arrived from Pakistan. Aid also arrived by air from Iran and Qatar, he said.

The quake was the deadliest in the country since 2002, when a similarly powerful quake killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan.

U.S. President Joe Biden has directed USAID and other federal government entities to assess how it can respond to help those most affected by the earthquake.

"We are committed to continuing our support for the needs of the Afghan people as we stand with them during and in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy," national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

The United Nations said it was deploying medical health teams and providing medical supplies, but it said it does not have search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that the crisis could add to the risk of cholera developing across the country.

Dapeng Luo, the WHO representative in Afghanistan, said about 500,000 people were already in May experiencing diarrheal disease, one of the main symptoms of cholera.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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