World Inside

Afghanistan earthquake: Taliban appeal for more aid as death toll set to mount

Publish: 10:53 AM, 23 Jun, 2022


Thumbnail

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government has appealed for more international aid as it struggles to cope with the devastating earthquake in a mountainous eastern region that has left more than 1,000 people dead and many more injured.

With the war-ravaged nation already stricken by an economic crisis, the hardline Islamist leadership said sanctions imposed by western countries after the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces last year meant it was handicapped in its ability to deal with Wednesday’s disaster in Khost and Paktika provinces.

The death toll climbed steadily Wednesday as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would probably rise further.

The earthquake struck areas that were already suffering the effects of heavy rain, causing rockfalls and mudslides that hampered rescue efforts.

Describing the aftermath as people dug through the rubble to retrieve the dead and injured, Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, the head of the information and culture department in Paktika, said: “People are digging grave after grave.”

Footage released by the Taliban showed residents digging a long slit trench to bury the dead. Huzaifa said more than 1,500 people were injured, many critically. “People are still trapped under the rubble,” he told journalists.

The disaster comes as Afghanistan grapples with a severe economic crisis that has gripped it since the Taliban takeover last year, and amid rapidly mounting concerns over the ability of the Taliban and international agencies to respond quickly.

While major international agencies still operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover saw other agencies and governments reduce their assistance programmes in a country where about 80% of the budget came from foreign assistance.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a senior Taliban official, said the government “appreciated and welcomed” help that has been pledged by some other governments and relief agencies such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the Red Cross.

But the 5.9-magnitude earthquake – initially reported as magnitude 6.1, and the country’s deadliest for more than 20 years – had caused such widespread damage and suffering that more help was needed.

“The government sadly is under sanctions so it is financially unable to assist the people to the extent that is needed,” he said.

“The assistance needs to be scaled up to a very large extent because this is a devastating earthquake which hasn’t been experienced in decades.”

The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, said the global agency has “fully mobilised” to help, with UN officials confirming the deployment of health teams and supplies of medicine, food, trauma kits and emergency shelter to the quake zone.

Tomas Niklasson, the European Union’s special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”

Pakistan, where officials said one person was killed in the quake, said it would send emergency aid – including tents – across the border.

The disaster poses a huge challenge for the Taliban, who have largely isolated the country as a result of their hardline Islamist policies – particularly the subjugation of women and girls.

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently strike the country.

But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters left since the Taliban returned to power, any immediate response to the latest catastrophe is further limited.

Karim Nyazai was in the provincial capital and returned immediately to find his village devastated and 22 members of his extended family dead.

“I was away from my family who live in a remote village in the Gyan district. I went there as soon as I could find a car in the early morning,” he told the Guardian.

“The entire village is buried. Those who could manage to get out before everything fell down were managing to take out the bodies of their loved ones out of the rubble. There were bodies wrapped in blankets everywhere.

“I lost 22 members of my [extended family] including my sister, and three of my brothers. More than 70 people in the village died.”

One survivor, Arup Khan, 22, who was pulled out of a collapsed guesthouse, described the moment the earthquake struck. “It was a horrible situation. There were cries everywhere. The children and my family were under the mud.”

The United States, whose troops helped topple the initial Taliban regime and remained in Afghanistan for two decades until Washington pulled them out last year, was “deeply saddened” by the earthquake, the White House said.

“President Biden is monitoring developments and has directed USAID (US Agency for International Development) and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

Wednesday’s quake occurred at around 1.30am at a depth of 10km (six miles), about 47km south-west of Khost, according to the United States Geological Survey.

It was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, 480km from the epicentre in Khost.

- The Guardian 


Afghanistan   Earthquake  


Comment


World Inside

Village life left in ruins after deadly Afghan quake

Publish: 02:31 PM, 26 Jun, 2022


Thumbnail

Village life has always been tough for Afghans in the rugged mountains of the east, but compared to what they are enduring today it was paradise.

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled through the area last Wednesday, killing more than 1,000 people, injuring three times that many, and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

"If life before was not really good -- because for years there was war – the earthquake has made it even harder for us," says Malin Jan, who lost two daughters in the quake.

All 14 houses in his village of Akhtar Jan were flattened, and survivors -- including some from outlying hamlets -- are now living in tents among the ruins.

Two small makeshift camps have been set up in dusty gardens, with stunted grass grazed by three cows, a donkey, two goats and a flock of chickens.

In tents pitched in a circle, about 35 families -- more than 300 people including many children -- are trying to survive.

Living in such close proximity to non-relatives is anathema to Afghans -- particularly in the conservative countryside where women rarely interact with strangers.

Sanitary conditions are likely to deteriorate rapidly -- there are no toilets, and people have to draw water from a well to wash.

"Before the earthquake, life was nice and beautiful," says villager Abdu Rahman Abid.

"We had our houses and God was good."

He gives a gruesome count of those he lost in the rubble -- his parents, his wife, three daughters, a son and a nephew.

"The earthquake killed eight members of my family and my house is destroyed," he says, looking weary.

"There is a big difference now. Before we had our own houses and everything we needed. Now we have nothing and our families are living in tents."

Neighbour Malin Jan is already looking ahead, fearful of what the future holds.

The harsh winter, which lasts almost five months in this remote mid-mountain region, will arrive in September.

"If our children stay in this situation their lives will be in danger because of the rain and snow," he says.

Massoud Sakib, 37, who lost his wife and three daughters, also fears for the months ahead.

"Even living in a house is difficult during winter, so if our houses are not rebuilt by then our lives will be in danger," he says.

On Saturday, the UN's top official in the country, Ramiz Alakbarov, arrived from Kabul by helicopter to visit the region -- including the village of Akhtar Jan -- with representatives of each UN agency.

Alakbarov was moved to tears as he met a young girl and was offered tea by a survivor, praising the "resilience and courage" of the people.

But their tenacity only stretches so far. Interviewed by AFP, the Afghan minister of health, Qalandar Edad, warned of the "mental and psychological" suffering of victims.

Malin Jan said the villagers were doing their best to help each other through the crisis.

"When a family is hit by a tragedy, the others naturally come to surround and support them," he said.

"Everything is affected... we console each other." But they cannot do it alone, adds villager Abdul Rahman Abib.

"We ask the world to help us as long as we need it. It must share our pain."

- BSS/AFP


Afghanistan   Earthquake  


Comment


World Inside

Baby mammoth frozen over 30,000 years ago found in Canada

Publish: 01:07 PM, 26 Jun, 2022


Thumbnail

A whole baby woolly mammoth has been found frozen in the permafrost of north-western Canada - the first such discovery in North America. 

The mummified ice age mammoth is thought to be more than 30,000 years old. It was found by gold miners in Yukon's Klondike region on Tuesday.

The area of the find belongs to the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation.

The Yukon government compared it to Russia's discovery of a baby mammoth in the permafrost of Siberia in 2007.

It said it was "the most complete mummified mammoth found in North America", and only the second such find in the world.

The baby, thought to be female, has been named Nun cho ga, meaning "big baby animal" in the Han language spoken by Native Americans in the area.

"Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world," said Yukon palaeontologist Grant Zazula.

It is about the same size as the Siberian baby Lyuba found in 2007, which was some 42,000 years old, the Yukon government said in a press release.

It is the best-preserved woolly mammoth discovered in North America. The partial remains of a mammoth calf, named Effie, were found in 1948 at a gold mine in neighbouring Alaska.

CBC News says Nun cho ga was unearthed after a miner called his boss over to examine something that was hit by his bulldozer in the mud at Eureka Creek, south of Dawson City.

- BBC 



Comment


World Inside

Global Covid cases near 549 million

Publish: 11:02 AM, 26 Jun, 2022


Thumbnail

The overall number of Covid cases is now near 549 million amid a rise in new infections in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

According to the latest global data, the total case count mounted to 548,692,849 while the death toll from the virus reached 6,350,314, on Sunday morning.

The US has recorded 88,777,558 cases so far and 1,040,792 people have died from the virus in the country, the data shows.

Over 29,000 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in 24 hours in India, taking the total tally to 43,391,331, according to data released by the health ministry on Sunday.

Besides, as many as 25 Covid-19-related deaths reported in the country since Saturday morning took the total death toll to 524,979.


Covid-19   Coronavirus   Pandemic  


Comment


World Inside

Russia fires missiles across Ukraine

Publish: 09:33 AM, 26 Jun, 2022


Thumbnail

Russian forces were seeking to swallow up the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region, pressing their momentum after taking full control Saturday of the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk and the chemical plant where hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians had been holed up.

Russia also launched dozens of missiles on several areas across the country far from the heart of the eastern battles. Some of the missiles were fired from Russian long-range Tu-22 bombers deployed from Belarus for the first time, Ukraine's air command said.

The bombardment preceded a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, during which Putin announced that Russia planned to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said late Saturday that Russian and Moscow-backed separatist forces now control Sievierodonetsk and the villages surrounding it. He said the attempt by Ukrainian forces to turn the Azot plant into a “stubborn center of resistance” had been thwarted.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk province, said Friday that Ukrainian troops were retreating from Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and house-to-house fighting. He confirmed Saturday that the city had fallen to Russian and separatist fighters, who he said were now trying to blockade Lysychansk from the south. The city lies across the river just to the west of Sievierodonetsk.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of every major settlement in the province, a significant step toward Russia’s aim of capturing the entire Donbas. The Russians and separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province in the Donbas.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and that fighting was taking place in the heart of the city. There was no immediate comment on the claim from the Ukrainian side.

Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk have been the focal point of a Russian offensive aimed at capturing all of the Donbas and destroying the Ukrainian military defending it — the most capable and battle-hardened segment of the country’s armed forces.

Russian bombardment has reduced most of Sievierodonetsk to rubble and cut its population from 100,000 to 10,000. The last remaining Ukrainian troops were holed up in underground shelters in the huge Azot chemical plant, along with hundreds of civilians. A separatist representative, Ivan Filiponenko, said earlier Saturday that its forces evacuated 800 civilians from the plant during the night, Interfax reported.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleg Zhdanov said some of the troops were heading for Lysychansk. But Russian moves to cut off Lysychansk will give those retreating troops little respite.

Some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) to the west, four Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea hit a “military object” in Yaroviv, Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said. He did not give further details of the target, but Yaroviv has a sizable military base used for training fighters, including foreigners who have volunteered to fight for Ukraine.

Russian missiles struck the Yaroviv base in March, killing 35 people. The Lviv region, although far from the front lines, has come under fire at various points in the the war as Russia's military worked to destroy fuel storage sites.

About 30 Russian missiles were fired on the Zhytomyr region in central Ukraine on Saturday morning, killing one Ukrainian soldier, regional governor Vitaliy Buchenko said. He said all of the strikes were aimed at military targets.

In the northwest, two missiles hit a service station and auto repair center in Sarny, killing three people and wounding four, the Rivne regional governor, Vitaliy Koval, said. He posted a picture of the destruction. Sarny is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the border with Belarus.

In southern Ukraine along the Black Sea coast, nine missiles fired from Crimea hit the port city of Mykolaiv, the Ukrainian military said.

In the north, about 20 missiles were fired from Belarus into the Chernihiv region, the Ukrainian military said.

Ukraine's military intelligence agency said the Russian bombers' use of Belarusian airspace for the first time for Saturday's attack was “directly connected to attempts by the Kremlin to drag Belarus into the war.”

Belarus hosts Russian military units and was used as a staging ground before Russia invaded Ukraine, but its own troops have not crossed the border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that as a war that Moscow expected to last five days moved into its fifth month, Russia “felt compelled to stage such a missile show."

He said the war was at a difficult stage, “when we know that the enemy will not succeed, when we understand that we can defend our country, but we don’t know how long it will take, how many more attacks, losses and efforts there will be before we can see that victory is already on our horizon.”

During his meeting in St. Petersburg with Lukashenko, Putin told him the Iskander-M missile systems would be arriving in the coming months. He noted that they can fire either ballistic or cruise missiles and carry nuclear as well as conventional warheads. Russia has launched several Iskander missiles into Ukraine during the war.

Following a botched attempt to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in the early stage of the invasion that started Feb. 24, Russian forces have shifted their focus to the Donbas, where the Ukrainian forces have fought Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking in Washington on condition of anonymity, on Friday called the Ukrainians’ withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk a “tactical retrograde” to consolidate forces into positions where they can better defend themselves. The move will reinforce Ukraine’s efforts to keep Russian forces pinned down in a small area, the official said.

After repeated Ukrainian requests to its Western allies for heavier weaponry to counter Russia’s edge in firepower, four medium-range American rocket launchers arrived this week, with four more on the way.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a video Saturday showing the first use of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, in Ukraine. The video gave no location or indication of the targets. The rockets can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers).

The senior U.S. defense official said Friday that more Ukrainian forces are training outside Ukraine to use the HIMARS and are expected back in their country with the weapons by mid-July. Also to be sent are 18 U.S. coastal and river patrol boats.

The official said there is no evidence Russia has intercepted any of the steady flow of weapons into Ukraine from the U.S. and other nations. Russia has repeatedly threatened to strike, or actually claimed to have hit, such shipments.

– AP/UNB


Ukraine Crisis   Russian Missile  


Comment


World Inside

Deaths rise to 23 from mass attempt to enter Spanish enclave

Publish: 09:25 AM, 26 Jun, 2022


Thumbnail

The number of people who were killed after they tried to scale a border fence between Morocco and a Spanish enclave in North Africa rose to 23 Saturday as human rights organizations in Spain and Morocco called on both countries to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Moroccan authorities said the individuals died as a result of a “stampede” of people who attempted Friday to climb the iron fence that separates the city of Melilla and Morocco. In a statement, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said 76 civilians were injured along with 140 Moroccan security officers.

The ministry initially reported five deaths. Local authorities cited by Morocco’s official Television 2M updated the number to 18 on Saturday and then reported that the death toll had climbed to 23. The Moroccan Human Rights Association reported 27 dead, but the figure could not immediately be confirmed.

Two members of Morocco's security forces and 33 migrants who were injured during the border breach were being treated at hospitals in the Moroccan cities of Nador and Oujda, MAP said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Saturday condemned what he described as a “violent assault” and an “attack on the territorial integrity” of Spain. Spanish officials said 49 Civil Guards sustained minor injuries.

“If there is anyone responsible for everything that appears to have taken place at that border, it is the mafias that traffic in human beings,” Sánchez said.

His remarks came as the Moroccan Human Rights Association shared videos on social media that appeared to show dozens of migrants lying on the ground, many of them motionless and a few bleeding, as Moroccan security forces stood over them.

“They were left there without help for hours, which increased the number of deaths,” the human rights group said on Twitter. It called for a “comprehensive” investigation.

In another of the association’s videos, a Moroccan security officer appeared to use a baton to strike a person lying on the ground.

In a statement released late Friday, Amnesty International expressed its “deep concern” over the events at the border.

“Although the migrants may have acted violently in their attempt to enter Melilla, when it comes to border control, not everything goes," said Esteban Beltrán, the director of Amnesty International Spain. "The human rights of migrants and refugees must be respected and situations like that seen cannot happen again.”

Five rights organizations in Morocco and APDHA, a human rights group based in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, also called for inquiries.

The International Organization for Migration and U.N. refugee agency UNHCR also weighed in with a statement that expressed “profound sadness and concern” over what happened at the Morocco-Melilla border.

“IOM and UNHCR urge all authorities to prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees, refrain from the excessive use of force and uphold their human rights,” the organizations said.

In a statement published Saturday, the Spanish Commission for Refugees, CEAR, decried what it described as “the indiscriminate use of violence to manage migration and control borders" and expressed concerns that the violence had prevented people who were eligible for international protection from reaching Spanish soil.

The Catholic Church in the southern Spanish city of Malaga also expressed its dismay over the events. “Both Morocco and Spain have chosen to eliminate human dignity on our borders, maintaining that the arrival of migrants must be avoided at all costs and forgetting the lives that are torn apart along the way,” it said in a statement penned by a delegation of the diocese that focuses on migration in Malaga and Melilla.

A spokesperson for the Spanish government’s office in Melilla said that around 2,000 people had attempted to make it across the border fence but were stopped by Spanish Civil Guard Police and Moroccan forces on either side of the border fence. A total 133 migrants made it across the border.

The mass crossing attempt was the first since Spain and Morocco mended relations after a year-long dispute related to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976. The thaw in relations came after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant more autonomy to the territory, a reversal of its previous support for a U.N.-backed referendum on the status of Western Sahara.

– AP/UNB


Spanish enclave  


Comment


বিজ্ঞাপন