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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 06:38 GMT
Aftershocks 'increase Afghan quake toll'
medicins san frontieres doctor attends to injured girl
Food and medicine have arrived in the area
The number of people killed in the earthquake disaster in northern Afghanistan has risen sharply after fresh aftershocks hit the region on Wednesday morning, according to the Afghan Government.


I found all houses flattened

Helicopter pilot who flew to Nahrin
Government officials had previously talked of about 2,000 deaths from a series of earthquakes which flattened the market town of Nahrin and affected 40 nearby villages in the remote province of Baghlan.

There is still no access to the remote town of Burqa, 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) to the north.

"Casualties have mounted dramatically after new aftershocks early this morning," Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Gulbuddin told Reuters news agency.

"We think the death toll is now far more than 2,000 and is going to go up dramatically as we dig through rubble in Nahrin and reach outlying villages."

HAVE YOUR SAY The United Nations has asked peacekeeping troops to provide aircraft to fly in emergency aid.

The French aid agency Acted has said 600 bodies have been brought out of the rubble so far in Nahrin.

village near Nahrin
Villages in the Hindu Kush were destroyed by the quake
The quakes began in the Hindu Kush mountains on Monday at about 1930 local time (1500 GMT), rocking the poor and mainly rural region that had already been devastated by years of war and drought.

About 20,000 people are said to have been been left homeless in freezing conditions.

Aid is being flown and driven into the region, but the aftershocks and badly-damaged roads are slowing the operation.

Aid filters through

A helicopter pilot who flew a team of government officials to Nahrin said the town of mud-brick houses had been devastated.

"I found all houses flattened," Mohammed Haroun said. "People have fled to wherever they can. We are rushing medicine and supplies as well as shrouds for the dead to the area."

The BBC's Kate Clark says tents were distributed throughout the night and a rapid relief effort has meant blankets, food and medicine have all arrived in the area.

Nahrin now has a field clinic. Doctors said the most common injuries were broken bones but that they had also evacuated some critical cases.
Recent Afghan quakes
3 March 2002: 70 killed in northern province of Samangan
May 1998: 5,000 killed in northern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan
February 1998: 4,500 killed in Takhar
Witnesses have reported survivors scrabbling with their bare hands to reach those trapped underneath collapsed buildings.

A UN spokesman said adobe homes offered little protection against the earthquake but the rubble was easier to search for survivors.

Russia is sending rescue teams to the region, and American aid workers stationed in Afghanistan have teamed up with other agencies to provide food, medicines, tents and blankets.

"We already have some supplies going into the region, and we're doing the assessments on what more is needed," said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"Because we have been doing so much in Afghanistan in terms of food relief and non-food relief, we have sufficient supplies on hand to take care of people in this affected area."

The British-led international security force (ISAF) in the Afghan capital, Kabul, despatched a Chinook helicopter to Nahrin on Tuesday.

The helicopter carried reconnaissance teams from ISAF itself, aid agencies, Britain's international development department and representatives of Afghanistan's interim authority.

It also transported a tonne of emergency medical kits from the United Nations World Health Organisation to the quake zone.

A British Defence Ministry spokesman said the force was on standby to offer assistance, but had yet to receive a formal request from the interim government.

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Catherine Davis
"There are single-storey mud-brick homes which have just collapsed into piles of rubble"
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"It's possible that many people are to be found beneath the rubble"
Mireille Borne of ACTED
"People are seeking shelter or sleeping in their destroyed homes"
See also:

26 Mar 02 | South Asia
Quake relief effort
26 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Hindu Kush: High-risk quake zone
07 Feb 02 | South Asia
Timeline: Afghanistan
15 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Afghanistan
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