Bibi Hawa’s face is transformed by tears as she tries to grasp her knee from a hospital bed in Sharan, capital of Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
At least a dozen members of her family were killed among more than 1,000 people by a devastating earthquake that struck the region early Wednesday, and she fears she has been left completely alone.
“Where am I going, where am I going?” asks the 55-year-old multiple times.
As a nurse tries to calm her down, speak softly to her and kiss her forehead, Bibi sighs, “My heart is weak.”
The magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the rugged and impoverished east, where people have been living hand-to-mouth lives since the Taliban takeover in August.
The disaster poses a major challenge to the hardline Islamists, who have largely isolated the country as a result of their hardline policies.
The United Nations in an initial estimate said more than 2,000 homes were destroyed in the region, where the average family often has up to 20 members.
In the room where Bibi is being treated, a dozen other women are lying on beds – many sleeping, some groaning under blankets, others hooked on vital fluids.
Shahmira is unhurried, but her one-year-old granddaughter lies in her lap, a large dressing that covers his temple.
On the next bed, her daughter-in-law sleeps off her injuries while a son is treated in another ward.
“We were sleeping when we heard a loud noise,” she told AFP about the quake.
“I was angry … I thought my family was buried under the rubble and that I was the only one” still alive.
– Screams everywhere –
In an adjacent neighborhood, a dozen men also get into bed.
One father holds his son on his lap – the boy in mustard-colored trousers with small black hearts, one leg in a cast.
Nearby lies another child under a blue blanket. His left arm is also in a cast, while on his forehead a white bandage bears the word “emergency” written in black marker.
“It was a horrible situation,” recalls Arup Khan, 22, talking about the moments after the earthquake.
“There was crying everywhere. The kids and my family were sitting under the mud.”
Mohammad Yahya Wiar, director of Sharan Hospital, says they have done their best to treat everyone.
When the injured arrived, “they were crying, and we were crying too”, he told AFP.
“Our country is poor and has no resources. This is a humanitarian crisis. It’s like a tsunami.”
But locals rally to help. One hundred men are waiting patiently for the hospital.
“They have come to donate blood – about 300 have given it since this morning,” a Taliban fighter said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)