KABUL, Afghanistan — Dadmir Khan lost his three daughters, son and mother in one of the deadliest earthquakes to hit Afghanistan in decades on Wednesday.
Now he worries about who in his family will not survive the earthquake’s aftermath, as medicines for the injured have become scarce.
“It felt like there was a huge explosion,” Khan, 45, told NBC News.
The farmer from the remote, mountainous Paktika province near the Pakistani border added that he was knocked to the ground several times by the earthquake, which measured a magnitude of 5.9, according to the United States Geological Survey.
He said his son Nabiullah, 7, and his three daughters – Lila, 4; Amina, 3; and Nazia, 2 – and mother, Guljama, 65, were killed.
Other members of his family were treated in hospital, “but they are not in a good condition because there are not enough medicines in the facility,” he said.
“We want to take them elsewhere,” he added.
Officials of the Afghan Taliban rulers said at least 1,000 people were killed and 1,500 injured in the earthquake, which had its epicenter in Paktika province, though they warned the toll could rise further.
Images of villages hidden among the rugged mountains show residents picking through the rubble of collapsed houses, and it is feared that many will become trapped under collapsed buildings.
Zarinullah Shah said a large percentage of his community in the Barmal district of Paktika province has lost relatives.
“In our area, most of the houses were built with mud,” said Shah, 47, adding that most of the buildings he lived in had been damaged or destroyed and about 300 families had lost their homes.
As a result, he said they had no choice but to spend the night in the open air.
Thousands were in dire need of tents, blankets, food and medicine, he said, adding that “The Afghan government has been trying to help the injured, but they don’t have enough resources, especially helicopters and doctors to meet the needs of the people. to fulfil. affected people.”
“The situation is very bad,” said Dr. Mohammad Anwar Haneef, the senior program coordinator for Care International in Afghanistan, one of the few international aid organizations to remain in the country after the Taliban seized power in August while the US and its NATO allies prepared to withdraw.
Haneef, who coordinated relief efforts from the country’s capital, Kabul, added that ambulances could not easily reach the affected areas.
In a rare move, the reclusive Taliban Supreme Leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, who rarely appears in public, called for “the international community and all humanitarian organizations to help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy and do everything in their power to work to help those affected. people.”
“We ask God to save our poor people from tribulations and harm,” he said in a statement from the Taliban spokesman.
But the response is likely to be complicated, as many governments are wary of dealing directly with the militant group, which has issued a flurry of repressive edicts curtailing the rights of women and girls, and the press, which is reminiscent of the last time it was in power, before the US invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The international community’s reluctance could delay the deployment of emergency aid and teams normally dispatched after such natural disasters.
The earthquake has also struck at a time when Afghanistan is already deep in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with millions facing increasing hunger and poverty after international funding to the Taliban was cut off.
“People are unemployed,” Haneef said. “They have no income, so the private sector is not functioning properly.”
He added that it was difficult to get out of the country to buy medical supplies and that this was compounded by the fact that the country “suffered from low income on the one hand and high costs on the other” .
With huge swathes of the country devastated, he said his country needed “a short-term plan to provide food, shelter, medicine and medical support”.
“Unfortunately, this has long-term consequences for people,” he added.
Ahmed Mengli reported from Kabul and Mushtaq Yusufzai from Peshawar, Pakistan.
Associated Press contributed†