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Taliban: Aid starts trickling into quake-hit areas in eastern Afghanistan

This photo shows aftermath of massive earthquake in eastern Afghanistan. (Via Bakhtar News Agency)

Aid has begun arriving in a rugged and mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan where a powerful earthquake on Wednesday killed more than 1,000 people and rendered hundreds others homeless.

Sharafat Zaman, a spokesperson for the Afghan health ministry, said about 1,000 people had been rescued by Thursday morning. "Aid has arrived to the area and it is continuing but more is needed."

Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a Taliban military spokesman in the hardest-hit Paktika province, said the rescue operation was almost complete. "The rescue operation has finished, no one is trapped under the rubble."

Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, a spokesperson for the disaster ministry, said rescue operations had finished in major districts but were continuing in some isolated areas.

The earthquake has reportedly killed over 1,000 people and injured 1,500. More than 3,000 houses were destroyed. The death toll makes it Afghanistan's deadliest earthquake in two decades.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck early Wednesday in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

The town of Gayan, close to the epicenter, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed.

Poor communications and a lack of proper roads are hampering relief efforts in a country already grappling with a humanitarian crisis.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesperson for the Afghan foreign ministry, in a tweet repeated calls for international aid. "We call on natural disaster management agencies and the international community to provide immediate and comprehensive aid to the Afghan people."

The United Nations said its World Food Programme (WFP) was sending food and logistics equipment to affected areas.

"The Afghan people are already facing an unprecedented crisis following decades of conflict, severe drought and an economic downturn," said Gordon Craig, WFP deputy country director in Afghanistan. "The earthquake will only add to the already massive humanitarian needs they endure daily."

The Taliban have urged the United States to unfreeze Afghanistan's assets after the the earthquake.

In February, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order that would seize the Afghan assets and move half to a fund purportedly designated for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. However, Biden nodded to legal wrangling with some 9/11 families pursuing claims against those assets as the reason for not trying to free the other half of Afghan funds allegedly for the Afghan people.

The freeze has continued amid Afghanistan's economy being on the verge of collapse, inflation soaring, and millions of Afghans on the brink of starvation.

However, Washington's callous indifference to humanitarian crises is known to all and sundry.

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