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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 13:25 GMT
'Scenes of devastation' in quake zone
Many houses have been completely flattened
Eyewitnesses have described scenes of devastation in the areas worst affected by Monday's earthquakes in northern Afghanistan.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes says almost every house in the town of Nahrin has some kind of damage, and many have been completely destroyed.

Aftershocks are continuing to shake the area, sending already fearful people running from what buildings there are left.

In the surrounding mountains, rockslides triggered by the quake have thrown huge clouds of dust into the sky.

It is not clear yet whether the new shocks have caused fresh casualties. The UN says at least 600 bodies have been found so far.

Many more may lie beneath the rubble of destroyed houses. Almost all buildings in the region are made of mud brick, which offers little resistance to earthquakes.

We are waiting for assistance ... if not we are in the hands of God. We are sleeping on the ground ... we have nowhere else to go

Ghulam Rabbani

Shopkeeper Ghulam Rabbani's whose four-year old granddaughter died in the quake, is also facing up to the loss of his livelihood:

"I've lost everything ... 120 million Afghanis ($400) worth of stock. We are waiting for assistance from the Afghan Government or foreign governments," he told the AFP news agency.

"If not we are in the hands of God. My house was destroyed and now we are sleeping outside on the ground. We are afraid right now, but we have nowhere else to go," he added.

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

Frederic Roussel, Acted

Mohammad Akbar, a teacher from a village 2 kilometres (1.2 mile) west of Nahrin told AFP:

"We are very poor here. I had no money to buy a coffin and there was nowhere to wash the body of my mother before she was buried,"

"We have almost no food, and we have received no support so far," added Akbar, who also lost his daughter in the quake.

Mass grave

The agency said a reporter in Nahrin had witnessed the burial of bodies in a mass grave to stop the spread of disease.

The head of the French aid agency ACTED, Frederic Roussel told AFP: "The most seriously injured have been evacuated by helicopter.

Aid worker
Aid is starting to arrive in the area

"There are many with lesser injuries, cuts and fractures who need to be treated. The people are just staying put and waiting."

"Everyone is in a state of shock, no-one says anything," he added.

"That's what struck me the most, the silence. One is there in the old town of Nahrin and it's completely destroyed, flattened"

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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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