Quickly after the 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Afghanistan within the early hours of Wednesday, Taliban officers and support companies began flooding in, carrying truckloads of meals, blankets, tents and medical provides for the victims.

However amid the chaos of first responders was one other group of Afghans – lots of whom stated they packed their luggage as quickly as they heard in regards to the earthquake, travelling to Paktika’s hard-hit Gayan district independently, hoping to assist.

Greater than 1,000 individuals have died within the quake that has levelled a minimum of 35 villages throughout the provinces of Paktika and Khost, whereas greater than 1,500 are severely injured – lots of them since transported to higher medical amenities within the capital, Kabul, and different provincial hubs.

Tremors are nonetheless being felt within the space, sending shockwaves of worry into an already weak inhabitants.

Whereas support teams are establishing their long-practised, and sometimes costly emergency response work – the United Nations estimated prices at roughly $15m – it’s the rather more inexpensive assist of native Afghans that appears to have reached the quake’s victims first, many say.

On a hilltop overlooking the distant Gayan district, a tough mountain terrain of rocky roads and collapsed mud-brick villages, Zakim Khan, 40, has pitched a tent with the assistance of native volunteers.

The quake has lowered the household’s home to rubble, and killed their 13-year-old daughter, Eid Marjana. Saima, Khan’s spouse, says it was nonetheless darkish when her husband pulled their daughter’s limp physique out from underneath the rubble. “A wall collapsed on to her and she or he was instantly useless,” Saima says, her eyes filling with tears that she silently wipes along with her scarf. “My family washed her useless physique and buried her. I attempted to assist, however I couldn’t get myself to do it.”

Eid Marjana was buried on one of many hills surrounding Gayan. The small district centre is now surrounded by the freshly dug graves of greater than 250 casualties.

Saima, surviving daughter of Zakim and Saima Khan. Her older sister, Eid Marjana, was killed. {Photograph}: Stefanie Glinski/The Observer

Saima has one daughter left – seven-year-old Shama – and she will’t let go of her hand as she sits crosslegged on her tent’s flooring. It hasn’t been main support organisations, however slightly particular person Afghans who’ve supplied the household with probably the most assist.

“We’ve had visits from businesspeople who travelled right here from Kabul and provided cash, in addition to docs from close by villages wanting on the small accidents my household sustained. Volunteers arrived from faraway provinces to assist clear up the rubble,” Khan tells the Observer. It doesn’t convey again his daughter, but it surely’s useful, he provides.

Stated Shirin, a 55-year-old man from neighbouring Urgun district, travelled to Gayan to assist cook dinner for as much as 1,300 individuals; and the styrofoam bins stuffed with recent rice attain Khan and his household, too. “It’s simpler to journey now,” Shirin says. “Through the battle, it was usually too harmful to journey by highway due to all of the preventing. That is the primary time in years that we are able to transfer simply.”

Gayan’s district governor, Malawi Rahmatullah Darwish, says that he remained optimistic, largely as a result of he’s seen Afghans from throughout providing their time to assist. “Persons are sort and so they do what they’ll,” he says. He stands surrounded by his workers and sports activities a shiny watch and henna-tattooed ft in dusty sandals.

He has been coordinating with many native volunteers, he says, and is used to responding to emergencies. “Earlier than the Islamic Emirate, I used to be a Taliban commander of about 100 fighters. There have been frequent drone strikes and bombardments and I used to be accountable to verify the injured [many of them civilians] would get therapy,” he explains.

That was simply over a 12 months in the past, when he was nonetheless dwelling in hiding. Now he’s in cost in Gayan. Again then, the Taliban staged common assaults; at present they’re attempting to run the federal government.

Ihsan Hasaand travelled to Gayan too, offering meals and home items to 80 households with the assistance of Aseel, a small collective and distribution platform of Afghan volunteers that has largely been supported by the Afghan diaspora abroad. Many wire cash to Afghanistan utilizing hawala, an unofficial cash switch service, circumventing sanctions affecting the Afghan banking system. Aseel’s community spans throughout the nation, with volunteers in virtually each district.

“We jumped within the automobile in Kabul as quickly as we heard in regards to the earthquake, and we’re now heading again – a 10-hour drive – to convey extra provides,” Hasaand says. He hopes for the collective to broaden. For the reason that Taliban’s takeover final August, Afghanistan has been thrown into an financial disaster, with hovering costs and elevated unemployment. Poverty is rife. “Our individuals need assistance proper now,” Hasaand stated. “It’s the least we are able to supply them.”