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Efforts Turn Largely To Providing Relief In Areas Of Afghanistan Worst-Hit By Earthquake

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Afghans work to remove rubble from a house destroyed in the 6.10-magnitude earthquake that hit eastern Afghanistan on June 22.

The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan says search and rescue operations have been completed in almost all the quake-hit areas of Paktika Province and the focus is now turning to relief efforts.

Many villages in Paktika Province's Giani and Barmal districts were devastated by the quake, which killed at least 1,000 people and injured 1,500. Khost Provinces was also badly affected by the quake.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck early on June 22 about 160 kilometers southeast of Kabul, in mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

More than 3,000 houses were destroyed by the earthquake, which also damaged mobile phone towers and power lines while triggering rock and mudslides that blocked mountain roads.

Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, a spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry for Disaster Management, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi on June 23 that it was difficult to get accurate information about the damage because of the poor condition of the telephone network in some areas.

While rescue operations have finished in major districts, they were continuing in some isolated areas, according to the ministry.

Sharafuddin Zaman, a spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry of Public Health, told RFE/RL that medical teams are working to provide assistance to those affected, and the death toll could rise.

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.

Wahidullah Amani, a spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP) for Afghanistan, told RFE/RL that the 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 as the country's Taliban rulers called on the international community to make donations to help with providing relief.

Rescuers Battle To Reach Remote Epicenter Of Deadly Afghan Earthquake
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The disaster poses a challenge for the Taliban-led government, which is largely isolated as a result of its hard-line Islamist policies toward women and girls. The country already is battling a severe humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country in August last year.

The quake was the deadliest in the country since 2002, when a similarly powerful tremor killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan. The Paktika and Khost provinces were the worst affected areas.

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 said it does not have search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the global agency has "fully mobilized" to help.

"My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan who are already reeling from the impact of years of conflict, economic hardship, and hunger," he said in a statement.

Tomas Niklasson, the European Union special envoy for Afghanistan, said on Twitter the EU is "stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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