Aftershocks raise death toll, slow relief in Afghan earthquake

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Snow, fog and civil war slowed relief workers struggling Sunday to reach quake-stricken northeast Afghanistan, where new tremors killed up to 250 people, according to the military alliance that controls the remote mountain region.
Between 2,000 and 5,000 people are believed to have been killed in Wednesday’s 6.1-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks, and thousands left homeless by the tremors and landslides are suffering from subfreezing temperatures.
He said 250 people were killed and 50 injured in the latest tremor in the Rustaq district of Takhar province, 150 miles north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Sunday’s shaking caused more problems for international aid agencies, which have been scrambling to get emergency supplies to Rustaq, which is ringed by mountains and blanketed in snow.
The first 6.1-magnitude quake destroyed more than 15,000 homes in the poor farming district, nestled at the junction of the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges, according to Afghan officials.
Whole hillsides collapsed onto each other, crushing the mud and brick homes perched on the slopes, they said. Roofs heavy with snow collapsed on sleeping villagers, who had no chance to escape.
There were more tremors late Saturday night and before dawn Sunday, which crumbled more villages. Abdullah said powerful jolts continued through the day.
Masood Khalili, the Afghan ambassador to India, said soldiers had dug out 3,681 bodies by late Saturday. While Afghan officials have put the death toll as high as 4,850, including the new victims, the Red Cross is sticking with an estimate of 2,150, noting that the area was sparsely populated.
Khalili said Wednesday’s earthquake destroyed 11 large villages. In the worst-hit village, Ghunji, 600 homes were destroyed and 1,600 people were killed, he said.