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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 17:57 GMT
Search for Afghan quake survivors
Doctor examines young girl
Doctors are helping those rescued from the rubble
Hundreds of rescuers are scouring the rubble of the town of Nahrin in northern Afghanistan searching for survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck the region on Monday night.

As many as 700 volunteers dug with shovels through mounds of mud and houses reduced to piles of debris, government officials said.

Click here for a detailed map of the earthquake zone
Enlarge image Enlarge image

A UN spokesman put the death toll from the earthquake at 1,000, but Afghan officials say as many as 2,000 people may have died.

Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai has visited Nahrin, and declared Thursday a national day of mourning.

Rescue efforts are being hampered by aftershocks and blocked roads, and a BBC correspondent in the region says some of the outlying villages have yet to be reached.

Burying the dead

According to Red Cross spokeswoman Caroline Douilliez in the capital, Kabul, 730 bodies have been found so far and about 500 of them have now been buried.

"I had no money to buy a coffin and there was nowhere to wash the body of my mother before she was buried," said Mohammad Akbar, a teacher from a village near Nahrin.

Cracked road in Afghan village
Many roads have huge cracks

The BBC correspondent in Nahrin, Catherine Davis, says most houses have been completely destroyed.

"What were single-storey mud brick dwellings are now a pile of rubble and broken timbers. Other homes are still standing, to some degree, but even so, many have lost their roofs," she said.

Aftershocks are still being felt and our correspondent said the people of Nahrin are terrified of the destruction they bring.

"As the ground shakes again, villagers run from their shattered homes to the fields," she said.

Aid arrives

The French aid organisation ACTED has distributed 500 tents and 1,000 blankets and said 1,500 additional tents and 1,500 portable shelters were being sent in.

Officials in Kabul said the World Food Programme was sending 175 tonnes of food.

The Red Cross has sent 400 first aid kits to the devastated area. Another aid agency, Medecins Sans Frontieres, sent two medical teams on Tuesday.


Everyone is in a state of shock, no one says anything. That's what struck me the most, the silence

Frederic Roussel, head of ACTED aid agency
"In this particular case, the agencies were on the ground, we already had the supplies in the surrounding areas," said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.

The US Army at Bagram air base, about 95 kilometres (60 miles) from the epicentre, also sent an assessment team to see if American troops could play a role in rescue and recovery efforts.

However, the United Nations said relief workers have been hampered in their efforts to reach some isolated villages because access is blocked by minefields.

Six Afghan army helicopters have been flown to the region to help transport immunisation experts, medical kits and officials.

Survivors

A provincial military commander, General Haider Khan, said he was shaken by the tragic scenes he encountered as he toured the area.

Mr Karzai with officials
Hamid Karzai saw the damage for himself
In one village, Mr Khan said he came across workers pulling 10 members of a single family from the ruins.

Only one family member, an 11-year-old boy, survived.

Survivors have been picking through their destroyed homes trying to salvage a few belongings.

"Everyone is in a state of shock, no one says anything. That's what struck me the most, the silence," said Frederic Roussel, head of ACTED.

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"First there was war, then drought and now this"
The BBC's Kate Clark
"The attempts to find bodies in the ruins will start in earnest"
Mireille Borne of ACTED
"People are seeking shelter or sleeping in their destroyed homes"

Talking PointFORUM
Afghanistan earthquake questionsAfghanistan earthquake
Your questions answered
See also:

27 Mar 02 | South Asia
'Scenes of devastation' in quake zone
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
27 Mar 02 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghan quake
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