Category: Archive

Aid agency in overdrive in quake aftermath

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

Explosives have been used by CONCERN relief workers in Afghanistan to clear roads blocked by last week’s earthquake in Baghlan province.

More than 730 people have been confirmed killed in the area of the town of Nahrin, and as many as 4,000 may yet be unaccounted for.

Freezing rain turned many roads to mud, reducing access even further, and, relief workers feared, dislodging land mines in what is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

CONCERN’s emergency coordinator, Ross O’Sullivan, reported that the remote region had been completely cut off, accessible only by United Nations helicopters.

Now, some trucks are able to reach the area, as roads are cleared with explosives. GOAL has also been working intensively to help the devastated towns, out of its base in Mazar Il Shariff.

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CONCERN’S development work in Northern Afghanistan rapidly turned into another emergency relief operation immediately after the earthquake last week, echoing the Irish agency’s arrival in the region in 1998, in response to another earthquake.

Since then, the agency’s workers have worked to relieve the effects of war, drought and famine — as well as earthquake damage.

Most survivors of the earthquake in Nahrin have been sleeping outdoors, as several large aftershocks have made the population frightened to return into any shelter.

At an altitude of almost 6,000 feet, Nahrin town is experiencing frigid nighttime temperatures, O’Sullivan reported. Flying over the area in a helicopter, he was able to confirm that Nahrin and the neighboring town of Burka have been almost leveled.

The most immediate problems, apart from physical access to the devastated areas, have been water, sanitation and medicine for the injured, he added in his most recent field report. Disease, starvation and death from injury followed fast behind the initial earthquake devastation, O’Sullivan said.

Trucks from neighboring Talaqan, where CONCERN has a base, have brought shelter materials along with non-food household and hygiene supplies. Over the next three to five days, household kits have been acquired locally for an estimated 5,000 families.

Afghanistan’s interim president, Hamid Karzai, visited the scene on Monday and declared that the Afghan government did not have the resources to deal with the problem and appealed for international assistance. There were assessment visits also by British and German military members of the coalition forces.

CONCERN representatives saw no evidence of U.S. military involvement in the relief work.

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