Bibi Hawa’s face is distorted with tears as she tries to understand her plight from a hospital bed in Sharan, the capital of Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
At least a dozen members of her family were among more than 1,000 people killed by the devastating earthquake that struck the region early Wednesday, and she fears she has been left alone.
“Where will I go, where will I go?” The 55-year-old asks repeatedly.
As a nurse tries to calm her down, talks to her softly and caresses her forehead, Bibi sighs: “My heart is weak.”
The 5.9-magnitude quake hit hardest in the rugged and poor east, where people were already living a face-to-face life since the Taliban takeover in August.
The disaster is a major challenge for radical Islamists, who have largely isolated the country as a result of their hardline policies.
The United Nations said in a preliminary estimate that more than 2,000 homes were destroyed in the region, where the average household often has 20 members.
In the room where Bibi is being treated, a dozen other women lie in bed—many asleep, some buried under blankets, others clinging to vital fluids.
Shahmira was not hurt, but her one-year-old grandson lies on her lap, a large dress covering her temple.
On the next bed, her daughter-in-law is sleeping injured, while a son is being treated in another ward.
“We were sleeping when we heard a loud noise,” she tells AFP about the quake.
“I screamed… I thought my family was buried under rubble and I was the only one” still alive.
– cries everywhere –
A dozen men are also recovering on the bed in the adjacent ward.
A father holds his son in his arms – the boy is wearing mustard-colored pants, with little black hearts, one leg in a plaster cast.
Nearby another child is lying under a blue blanket. His left hand is also in a cast, while a white band across his forehead is the word “Emergency” written in black marker.
Talking about the moments after the earthquake, 22-year-old Arup Khan recalls, “It was a terrible situation.
“There was screaming everywhere. The kids and my family were in the mud.”
Mohammed Yahya Weir, director of Sharan Hospital, says they are doing their best to treat everyone.
When the wounded arrived, they were “crying, and we were crying too”, he tells AFP.
“Our country is poor and lacking resources. This is a humanitarian crisis. It is like a tsunami.”
But local people are coming forward to help. Hundreds of men are waiting patiently in front of the hospital.
“They have come to donate blood – about 300 people have given it since this morning,” says a Taliban fighter.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)