India flies tons of essentials to quake-rocked Afghanistan
NEW DELHI (AP) — India sent family tents, blankets and other relief supplies for a team to distribute in eastern Afghan villages where a deadly earthquake collapsed thousands of timber and stone homes to rubble.
State media reported that close to 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged, and the death toll rose to 1,150 people with scores more wounded after the magnitude 6 quake on Wednesday.
Pictures of the relief effort were accompanied by a tweet from India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar: “India, a true first responder.”
The supplies total 27 tons delivered over two flights to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, where the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Afghan Red Crescent Society will coordinate its distribution, a ministry statement said Friday.
“As always, India stands in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, with whom we share centuries-old ties, and remains firmly committed to providing immediate relief assistance for the Afghan people,” the statement said.
Residents in the hardest-hit district appeared to largely be on their own in trying to survive after the quake, with the Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggling to bring in help.
India was left with no diplomatic presence in Kabul after it evacuated its staff ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Its embassy has been vacant since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August. But it has since sent 20,000 tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and winter clothing to Afghanistan to help with shortages there, according to the External Affairs Ministry.
Indian officials held talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan for the first time early this month to discuss the distribution of humanitarian assistance.
India’s envoys have met previously with Taliban representatives in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where they have an office.
India has said it will follow the lead of the United Nations in deciding whether to recognize the Taliban government.
By ASHOK SHARMA