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Worst-Off Afghan Quake Victims Get Aid

June 03, 1998| From Associated Press

FEYZABAD, Afghanistan — Aid agencies ferried the most badly wounded from devastated villages in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday and appealed for more aircraft and fuel to rescue uncounted others.

In the village of Kol, hundreds of people swarmed a U.N. helicopter that touched down three days after the massive earthquake that killed as many as 2,300.

They had carried their injured through the winding hillside streets, past crumbled packed-mud houses, on stretchers made of sticks and old clothes.

On Monday and Tuesday, U.N. helicopters evacuated 50 of the most seriously injured to emergency medical centers. They were working from the dirt airstrip of Feyzabad, still littered with the rusting junk of old Soviet tanks and artillery from Afghanistan's decades-long civil war.

Estimates of the dead ranged from 2,000 to 5,000. Aid workers said they were concentrating on helping the survivors and that it would take weeks to get a clear picture of how many were killed.

Saturday's quake struck an area that had been devastated just three months earlier by another massive quake that killed thousands.

Rescuers have reached only 29 villages, or about half of those believed to have been hit hard by the 6.9-magnitude quake.

Of those, 12 were destroyed, or very nearly so, said Rupert Colville, a U.N. spokesman.

Mohammed Karim was in Feyzabad when the quake hit his village on the outskirts of Shari Basurkh. Hitching a ride in a car, he and four friends raced for home, walking the last few hundred yards. They found the village virtually gone.

"We started digging. When we brought the people out they were already dead," Karim said.

"We brought the bodies from under the destruction and buried them without an Islamic prayer. We didn't have time," he said.

The farmer lost all his relatives there--more than a dozen people among the village's 200 residents.

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