October 14, 2023

AFGHANISTAN: Massive 6.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rocked Same Area On Oct 7 And Oct 10, Killed Nearly 3,000 People. Taliban Strengthens Ties With China. Biden Gives Taliban $2.35 BILLION.

Guardian News published October 12, 2023: 'Disaster on top of disaster': Afghanistan struck by second earthquake. Another deadly earthquake in western Afghanistan has increased the death toll to more than 3,000 people, according to Taliban officials.
The Guardian, UK
written by Akhtar Mohammad Makoii
Monday October 9, 2023

Survivors of a series of powerful earthquakes that struck western Afghanistan on Saturday have spent a second night sleeping amid the rubble of demolished villages as they search for loved ones using shovels. The death toll is approaching 3,000, according to senior Taliban officials.

In the regional capital of Herat city people slept in public parks and streets, fearing further tremors. The United States Geological Survey reported quakes on Monday of magnitude 5.9, 4.9 and 4.7 in rural areas.

“We have concerns that there may be additional casualties in that area as well,” a Taliban official said. “Our teams are currently en route to provide assistance to those affected regions.”

Saturday’s 6.3-magnitude quake – followed by eight strong aftershocks – jolted hard-to-reach areas near Herat, toppling rural homes and sending panicked city dwellers into the streets. Afghanistan is already in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, with the widespread withdrawal of foreign aid after the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, which has had a severe impact on its healthcare system. The group also has fractious relations with international aid organisations after banning women from working for the UN and NGOs.

“These past few days have been incredibly distressing. We’ve spent the last two nights in the desert, and more aftershocks keep occurring,” said Shakib, a Herat resident. “My two-year-old son is unwell and there’s nowhere to take him for medical care.”

Rescuers said they had found a further 350 bodies late on Sunday after officials previously put the death toll at 2,445. Health workers said they were overwhelmed. “Vans filled with dead bodies are arriving here each minute,” said a medic at Herat hospital. “We are struggling with the very high number of injured people. I have not counted dead bodies. Our morgue is out of capacity.”

The Taliban official said some villages were being reached on Monday for the first time since the quake.

“The rescue operation is still in progress. Forces from the defence ministry arrived in the area this morning and local residents are actively assisting with the operation. There are many people under the rubble and areas we have not reached yet,” he said. “At least 20 villages are completely flattened with people still under the rubble.”

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, but the Taliban – who took over the country by force two years ago – lack experience in handling natural disasters.

Social media and state TV footage depict members of the Taliban’s rescue teams extracting bricks from a pile of rubble with guns slung over their shoulders and using bulldozers in devastated villages, potentially risking the lives of any survivors.

“I visited a severely affected village with some of our neighbours to assist the people in need. Taliban rescue teams were using bulldozers to remove rubble and locate survivors, but their actions unintentionally put possible survivors at risk,” Fereydon, a Herat resident, said in a telephone interview.

The International Rescue Committee warned the lack of rescue equipment could push up the death toll in western Afghanistan because trapped survivors cannot be freed.

The United Nations migration agency dispatched four ambulances along with doctors and psychosocial support counsellors to the regional hospital. A minimum of three mobile health teams were en route to the Zenda Jan district, one of the hardest-hit areas.

The NGO Mรฉdecins Sans Frontiรจres set up five medical tents at Herat regional hospital with capacity for up to 80 patients.

Mohammad Javad, from Koshkak village, described the severe impact on the Zenda Jan district.

“The walls crumbled in a mere two seconds, and the entire village was brought to ruins in the same amount of time,” he said from a school accommodating survivors in Herat. “I lost a family member and my neighbours have lost at least four of their loved ones. Out of the over 1,000 people of the village, it’s probable that only a quarter of them have managed to survive. It’s like a massive grave.”

Another survivor told the Guardian over the phone: “We haven’t received any assistance since the earthquake struck. There is nothing left here, with every house in the villages having sustained damage. My husband and I were outside when it happened, and we survived. Many people have lost their lives here.”

In June 2022, a powerful earthquake struck a rugged, mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan, flattening stone and mud-brick homes.

“People are in devastating conditions in remote places, they need food, clothes and shelter. They were already very poor people and have nothing left now,” the Taliban official said.

Herat province, home to more than 3 million people on the border with Iran, has been hit by a years-long drought that has crippled many agricultural communities.

The affected area also contains many refugees who have recently returned from Iran and Pakistan, according to the Taliban official.

Aid agencies and NGOs have appealed for help from the international community. Aid from Iran and Turkey has so far arrived in the area, according to the Taliban.

“With winter approaching, the affected areas will soon experience extremely cold conditions. Many families not only have lost their homes but also their main breadwinners. They are in urgent need of immediate aid and suitable shelters,” said the governor of Herat, Noor Ahmad Islamjar, on Sunday. 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published October 11, 2023: Strong New Quake Rattles Western Afghanistan. Another strong earthquake shook western Afghanistan on October 11, just four days after a major temblor that claimed nearly 3,000 lives, according to Taliban officials. Many died as entire families were buried in collapsing homes in the series of quakes in Herat Province.

The Associated Press
written by Riazat Butt
Thursday October 12, 2023

ISLAMABAD — More than 90% of the people killed by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in western Afghanistan last weekend were women and children, U.N. officials reported Thursday.

Taliban officials said Saturday’s earthquake killed more than 2,000 people of all ages and genders across Herat province. The epicenter was in Zenda Jan district, where 1,294 people died, 1,688 were injured and every home was destroyed, according to U.N. figures.

Women and children were more likely to have been at home when the quake struck in the morning, said Siddig Ibrahim, the chief of the UNICEF field office in Herat. “When the first earthquake hit, people thought it was an explosion, and they ran into their homes,” he said.

Hundreds of people, mostly women, remain missing in Zenda Jan.

The Afghanistan representative for the United Nations Population Fund, Jaime Nadal, said there would have been no “gender dimension” to the death toll if the quake had happened at night.

“At that time of the day, men were out in the field,” Nadal told The Associated Press. “Many men migrate to Iran for work. The women were at home doing the chores and looking after the children. They found themselves trapped under the rubble. There was clearly a gender dimension.”

The initial quake, numerous aftershocks and a second 6.3-magnitude quake on Wednesday flattened entire villages, destroying hundreds of mud-brick homes that could not withstand such force. Schools, health clinics and other village facilities also collapsed.

The Norwegian Refugee Council described the devastation as enormous.

“Early reports from our teams are that many of those who lost their lives were small children who were crushed or suffocated after buildings collapsed on them,” the council said.

The maternity hospital in Herat province has cracks that make the structure unsafe. The U.N. has provided tents so pregnant women have somewhere to stay and receive care, Nadal said.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the world body also has provided ambulances to a regional hospital and distributed solar lamps, hygiene kits and other aid to hundreds of displaced families. The World Food Program is sending over 81 tons of food, Dujarric said at U.N. headquarters Thursday.

Many people inside and outside Herat’s provincial capital are still sleeping outside, even as temperatures drop.

The disproportionate impact of the quake on women has left children without mothers, their primary caregivers, raising questions about who will raise them or how to reunite them with fathers who might be out of the province or Afghanistan.

Aid officials say orphanages are non-existent or rare, meaning children who have lost one or both parents were likely to be taken in by surviving relatives or community members.

Earthquakes are common in Afghanistan, where there are a number of fault lines and frequent movement among three nearby tectonic plates.

Women may be at risk of not getting information on earthquake preparedness because of Taliban edicts curtailing their mobility and rights, and restrictions imposed on female humanitarian workers, a U.N. report has warned.

Authorities have barred girls from school beyond sixth grade and stopped women from working at nongovernmental groups, although there are exceptions for some sectors like health care. The Taliban also say that women cannot travel long distances without male chaperones.

Aid agencies say their female Afghan staff members are “for now” working freely in Herat and reaching women and girls affected by the earthquake.

UNICEF has launched a $20 million appeal to help the estimate 13,000 children and families devastated by the earthquake.
Reuters News
written by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield
Saturday October 14, 2023

KABUL - The Taliban will attend China's Belt and Road Forum next week, a spokesman said on Saturday, underscoring Beijing's growing official ties with the administration, despite its lack of formal recognition by any government.

Taliban officials and ministers have at times travelled to regional meetings, mostly those focussed on Afghanistan, but the Belt and Road Forum is among the highest-profile multilateral summits it has been invited to attend.

The forum in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of President Xi Jinping's ambitious global infrastructure and energy initiative, billed as recreating the ancient Silk Road to boost global trade.

The Taliban's acting minister for commerce and industry, Haji Nooruddin Azizi, will travel to Beijing in the coming days, ministry spokesman Akhundzada Abdul Salam Jawad said in a text message to Reuters.

"He will attend and will invite large investors" to Afghanistan, he said.

The impoverished country could offer a wealth of coveted mineral resources. A mines minister estimated in 2010 that Afghanistan had untapped deposits, ranging from copper to gold and lithium, worth between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. It is not clear how much they are worth today.

China has been in talks with the Taliban over plans, begun under the previous foreign-backed government, over a possible huge copper mine in eastern Afghanistan.

China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Azizi will continue discussions in Beijing on plans to build a road through the Wakhan corridor, a thin, mountainous strip in northern Afghanistan, to provide direct access to China, Akhundzada said.

Officials from China, the Taliban and neighbouring Pakistan said in May they would like Belt and Road to include Afghanistan and for the flagship China Pakistan Economic Corridor to be extended across the border to Afghanistan.

The Taliban has not been formally recognised by any government since taking control of Afghanistan two years ago as U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew.

A series of restrictions on women's access to public life and the barring of many female NGO staff from work has increased roadblocks to recognition, especially by Western countries, officials and international relations analysts say.

China has boosted engagement with the Taliban, becoming the first country to appoint an ambassador to Kabul since the Taliban took power, and invested in mining projects.

Beijing's ambassador presented his credentials to the Taliban's acting prime minister last month. Other nations have kept on previous ambassadors or appointed heads of mission in a charge d'affaires capacity that does not involve formally presenting credentials to the government.

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