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Update no. 98/06 on ICRC activities in Afghanistan

03-06-1998 Operational Update No 98/06

 Another earthquake shakes north-eastern Afghanistan  

On Saturday 30 May an earthquake hit the north-eastern region of Afghanistan, its epicentre situated near the town of Faizabad. The tremors measured 6.9 on the Richter scale, higher than the previous quakes which shook the Rostaq area earlier this year.

The earthquake has affected some 50-60 villages in this remote mountainous region. Although difficult to access by road, relief efforts are not hampered by the hazardous weather conditions which plagued the emergency operation for the quake victims in February.

The ICRC is not in a position to provide a body count, but is concentrating on addressing the most urgent needs of the survivors: medical care, shelter, non-food items, such as cooking materials and blankets, and ensuring a regular supply of drinking water. Although food relief is not necessary at the moment, the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation) are ready to step in if the harvesting of crops is seriously affected.

 Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement's immediate response  

Volunteers and staff of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) were immediately on the spot rendering first aid and bringing emergency assistance to the survivors. Branches in Faizabad and Takhar continue to mobilize their resources and provide assistance. ICRC and Federation delegates, using helicopters chartered by the ICRC in Tajikistan, are visiting the villages to establish which of th ose were the most badly affected. The seriously wounded, mostly women, young children and the elderly, have been evacuated by helicopter to clinics in the vicinity. An ICRC-chartered aircraft has made flights to Faizabad to bring in essential medical supplies (emergency kits, stretchers, body bags, etc.).

The ICRC medical team is working closely with humanitarian agencies in the region to support existing clinics in Rostaq, Shar-i-Bozorg and Cha'ab. Over 1.4 tonnes of medical supplies have been dispatched to the disaster-stricken area. Two trucks have left Pul-i-Khumri for Cha'ab, carrying over 4,300 blankets, 88 rolls of plastic sheeting, 24 tarpaulins and some 10,000 bars of soap.

The Federation is helping the ARCS to mobilize medical staff from branches to provide additional care for the victims.

 ICRC plan of action  

As second-hand data is not always reliable or precise, the ICRC has begun its own survey to assess the material needs of the most damaged villages. Medical personnel have brought in supplies, treated the wounded and evacuated serious cases to clinics or referral hospitals. This initial phase should be completed within three days.

The affected region was divided into three sections: the east, north-east and south-west. ICRC- and UN-chartered helicopters will be used to survey the damage, evacuate the wounded and dispatch urgently needed supplies. To maintain maximum efficiency, the ICRC, UN and non-governmental organizations are planning to set up a joint logistical base at Faizabad airport.

 Working together to help the needy  

In accordance with the Seville Agreement, the ICRC is the lead agency in this emergency operation. It is therefore responsible fo r the coordination of the relief and medical activities of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.

There are currently 11 expatriates on the spot, including a representative of the Federation. Staff and volunteers of the Afghan Red Crescent are working closely with the international components of the Movement. In addition, delegates coordinate closely with UN agencies and humanitarian organizations in the disaster area. An emergency committee has been established in Islamabad (Pakistan) in order to liaise more closely with the UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations based there.

Additional staff, such as relief and field administrators, will be arriving within the next few days.