UN says Turkey likely best to send rescue teams to Afghanistan

The United Nations does not have search and rescue capabilities in Afghanistan and Turkey is “best positioned” to provide it following a deadly earthquake in Afghanistan on Wednesday, a senior UN aid official said.

“We spoke about it with the Embassy of Turkey here on the ground and they’re waiting for the formal request,” said Deputy UN envoy in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov, who coordinates humanitarian operations.

“We will be able to make such a request only after the discussion with the de facto authorities and based on what is the reality on the ground at the moment.”

The earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan, overnight killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds more, with the toll expected to rise.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its first response bulletin that humanitarian partners were preparing to assist affected families in Paktika and Khost provinces, in coordination with the Taliban authorities.

“Immediate needs identified include emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food assistance and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) support,” the OCHA said.

“Given the unseasonable, heavy rains and cold, emergency shelter is an immediate priority.”

The 5.9 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead difficult lives in a country reeling under a humanitarian disaster worsened after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

The OCHA said the Taliban’s disaster management and humanitarian affairs office had delivered food and emergency tents to some families living in the open but further help was needed.

The agency said the Afghan Defense Ministry had dispatched five helicopters to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuations, while a medical team has been sent to Gayan district.

“Although search and rescue efforts are ongoing, heavy rain and wind is hampering efforts with helicopters reportedly unable to land this afternoon,” said the OCHA.

“The number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue operations are ongoing. Humanitarian search and rescue teams … are on standby to deploy as needed.”

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