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Afghans bury dead, dig for survivors of devastating quake

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Afghans bury dead, dig for survivors of devastating quake

By EBRAHIM NOROOZI

GAYAN, Afghanistan (AP) — Villagers rushed to bury the dead Thursday and dug by hand through the rubble of their homes in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan that state media reported killed 1,000 people. The Taliban and the international community that fled their takeover struggled to bring help to the disaster’s victims.

Under a leaden sky in Paktika province, which was the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, men dug a line of graves in one village, as they tried to lay the dead to rest quickly in line with Muslim tradition. In one courtyard, bodies lay wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rains that are hampering relief efforts for the living.

The state-run Bakhtar News Agency reported the death toll and said an estimated 1,500 more were injured. In the first independent count, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said around 770 people had been killed in Paktika and neighboring Khost province.

It’s not clear how the totals were arrived at, given the difficulties of accessing and communicating with the affected villages tucked into remote mountainsides. Either grim till would make the quake Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, and officials continued to warn the number could still rise.

“They don’t have anything to eat, they are wondering what they can have to eat, and it is also raining,” a Bakhtar reporter said in footage from the quake zone. “Their houses are destroyed. Please help them, don’t leave them alone.”

The disaster heaps more misery on a country where millions already faced increasing hunger and poverty and the health system has crumbled since the Taliban retook power nearly 10 months ago amid the U.S. and NATO withdrawal.

How the international humanitarian community, which has pulled back significant resources from the country, will be able to offer aid and to what extent the Taliban government will allow it to remain in question. The Taliban’s takeover led to a cutoff of vital international financing, and most governments remain wary of dealing directly with them.

U.N. agencies and other organizations still operating in Afghanistan said they sent supplies to the area, including medical kits, tents and plastic tarps, but the needs appeared immense as whole villages sustained massive damage.

“We ask from the Islamic Emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,” said a survivor who gave his name as Hakimullah. “We are with nothing and have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”

Search and rescue remained a priority. In hard-hit Gayan District, much of the rubble was too large for people to move with their hands or shovels. They said they hoped large excavators would make it out their remote homes. For now, there was only one bulldozer in the area.

On Wednesday, a U.N. official said the government had not requested that the world body mobilize international search-and-rescue teams or obtain equipment from neighboring countries, despite a rare plea from the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzadah, for help from the world.

U.N. agencies are facing a $3 billion funding shortfall for Afghanistan this year, and Peter Kessler, a spokesman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, said that means there will be difficult decisions about who gets aid.

In addition to the political and financial concerns, there were also logistical challenges to getting aid to remote villages. The roads, which are rutted and difficult to travel in the best of circumstances, may have been badly damaged in the quake, and landslides from recent rains have made some impassible. Though just 175 kilometers (110 miles) directly south of the capital, Kabul, some villages in Gayan District took a full day’s drive to reach.

Rescuers rushed in by helicopter — and Associated Press journalists also saw ambulances in the quake zone on Thursday — but heavier equipment will be difficult to deliver.

Walls and roofs of dozens of homes in Gayan collapsed in the quake, and villagers said whole families were buried under the rubble. Associated Press journalists counted some 50 bodies in the area alone, as people laid out their dead in front of their houses and in their courtyards.

While modern buildings withstand magnitude 6 earthquakes elsewhere, Afghanistan’s mud-brick homes and landslide-prone mountains make such quakes more dangerous. Shallow earthquakes also tend to cause more damage, and experts put the depth of Wednesday’s at just 10 kilometers (6 miles).

Despite the challenges, officials from several U.N. agencies said the Taliban were giving them full access to the area.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks of food and other necessities from Pakistan arrived in Paktika. He also said Thursday that two planes of humanitarian aid from Iran and another from Qatar had arrived in the country.

Obtaining more direct international help may be more difficult: Many countries, including the U.S., funnel humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the U.N. and other such organizations to avoid putting money in the Taliban’s hands.

In a news bulletin Thursday, Afghanistan state television made a point to acknowledge that U.S. President Joe Biden — their one-time enemy — offered condolences over the earthquake and had promised aid. Biden on Wednesday ordered the U.S. international aid agency and its partners to “assess” options for helping the victims, a White House statement said.

The death toll reported by Bakhtar was equal to that of a quake in 2002 in northern Afghanistan — the deadliest since 1998, when a 6.1 magnitude temblor and subsequent tremors in the remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.

Wednesday’s quake was centered in Paktika province, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, according to neighboring Pakistan’s Meteorological Department.

In Khost province’s Speray district, which also sustained serious damage, men stood atop what once was a mud home. The quake had ripped open its timber beams. People sat outside under a makeshift tent made of a blanket that blew in the breeze.

Survivors quickly prepared the district’s dead, including children and an infant, for burial. Officials fear more dead will be found in the coming days.

“The toll this disaster will have on the local communities … is catastrophic, and the impact the earthquake will have on the already stretched humanitarian response in Afghanistan is a grave cause for concern,” said Adnan Junaid, vice president for Asia for the International Rescue Committee. “The areas most affected are some of the poorest and most remote areas in Afghanistan, which lack the infrastructure to withstand disasters like this.”

___

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Rahim Faiez and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

Puffy white clouds filled the blue skies above Target Field and sunlight bounced off buildings that make up the Minneapolis skyline. It was the kind of summer night at the ballpark that Minnesotans dream about throughout the long winter months.

It was the perfect night at Target Field and the hometown team, well, they were nearly perfect, too. Twins pitchers gave up just one hit (and five walks), and the team captured a first-inning lead on its way to a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at Target Field.

A day after getting shut out for the 10th time this season, tying the league lead, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton made sure early on that the Twins wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Arraez snapped an 0-for-11 stretch to begin the game and Buxton, back in the lineup for the first time since Tuesday, followed that up with his first triple since 2019.

After missing time this week after his knee flared up, Buxton turned on the burners, with a sprint speed of 29.3 feet/second (30 ft/sec is elite) on the triple, losing his helmet along the way. When he reached the base, he pounded his chest a couple times, smacked his hands together and let out a roar.

While the Twins left Buxton on third, they added on throughout the game, tacking on a run in the second on Arraez’s second hit of the game, two more in the fifth and two more in the seventh.

Alex Kirilloff drove in three of those runs, one on a sacrifice fly and the other on a double off the right field wall, bringing home Max Kepler — who walked three times in the game — and Kyle Garlick. The double was his fourth in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A.

All that offense came in support of Chris Archer, who worked five innings and allowed just one hit — a single to former Twin C.J. Cron in the second inning — and a walk in his outing.  Archer pitched out of that second-inning jam, retiring the next three batters in a row, the first of 12 straight that he sent down to conclude his start.

His start was followed by a scoreless inning each from Jharel Cotton and Griffin Jax and two from Tyler Thornburg. Twins pitchers have now thrown two shutouts in their past three games, and in Friday’s loss, they gave up just one run.

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

1858: Joseph Israel Lobdell, born Lucy Lobdell, is arrested for “impersonating a man.” A judge in the rural camp community of Forest City, Minn., sided with Lobdell, ruling that he did not act unlawfully.

1877: Minneapolis rules crossdressing as illegal, putting gender-nonconforming Minnesotans at risk for imprisonment.

1969: The Stonewall riots begin in New York City after police raids occur in the gay-friendly bars and community spaces of Lower Manhattan. These riots serve as a public turning point in American LGBTQ+ history.

May 18, 1969: University of Minnesota alumni found Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, or FREE, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in the state. Founders Jack Baker and Michael McConnell become the first same-sex couple in the nation to apply for a marriage license, an application that is rejected by Hennepin County. Their legal case is dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in one sentence.

1972: The first Twin Cities Pride celebration is held in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

Dec. 9, 1972: Minnesota state Sen. Allan Henry Spear indicates he is gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star, making him the first openly gay state legislator in the United States.

June 1982: Bruce Brockway becomes the first documented recipient of an HIV diagnosis in Minnesota. After his diagnosis, he founded the Minnesota AIDS Project to provide resources to HIV-positive Minnesotans.

1993: Gender- and sexuality-based discrimination is outlawed in Minnesota, making it the first state in the nation to adopt the policy.

1997: Sicaŋgu Lakota man Nicholas Metcalf and his partner, Korean-American Edd Lee, found the Minnesota Men of Color, an organization that focuses on the well-being of men, women and gender-nonconforming people of color.

2012: Amendment 1, which limits marriage rights to only heterosexual couples, is rejected by the majority of Minnesota voters. Same-sex marriage is legalized in the state.

June 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court releases a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that same-sex marriage cannot be banned in any state and must be recognized nationally. Gay marriage is legalized.

June 25-26, 2022: After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, the Twin Cities Pride parade and festival returns to Minneapolis.

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Ramsey County official recalls Pride marches in the early 1980s: A time of AIDS, discrimination

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Brian Theine, manager of St. Paul Social Services, in his office overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul on June 23, 2022. (Bryson Rosell / Pioneer Press)

Growing up in the 1970s in small farming communities outside of Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., Brian Theine knew three things: He was gay, he wanted to help people, and he wanted to live in a more cosmopolitan place.

Theine would go on to become a social worker and land in Minneapolis in 1982, toward the height of the AIDS epidemic. Instead of Minnesota Nice, he said he discovered profound rejection. Some 100 to 200 members of the gay and lesbian community would gather annually at a beach by the area then known as Lake Calhoun for a solidarity walk to Loring Park. Along the way, the insults and jeers from bystanders came hard and fast, and they were relentless.

Celebrating Pride meant suffering through verbal assault, and sometimes real punches.

Gay media at the time carried news accounts of men who had been badly beaten as they were arrested by police for loitering in the park, and the graphic image of a Black man who’d had his teeth knocked out still haunts Theine some 40 years later.

“It was sort of a feeling of, ‘What kind of place did I come to?’ ” he recalled.

This weekend, during the 50th anniversary celebration of Twin Cities Pride, Theine is spending at least eight hours each day manning a Ramsey County Social Services booth in Loring Park, encouraging members of the GLBTQ community and their allies to become foster parents and open their doors to young people who may be struggling with their gender identity or who have faced rejection at home and bullying in school.

Underscoring the degree to which the social landscape has changed, some 400,000 people are expected for the Ashley Rukes GLBTQ Pride Parade on Sunday down Hennepin Avenue. The parade had been canceled for two years in a row during the pandemic.

While social acceptance and legal rights may be more widespread than in the 1980s, Theine considers the issues confronting many GLBTQ youth to be no less profound. Theine, a manager in Ramsey County Social Services, oversees foster care licensing for children and adults, adoptions and other family services. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Twin Cities Pride. A lot more people are openly gay today than 50 years ago. Is it safe to say we’ve come a long way?

I made that leap in the late ’70s, and it was a time of HIV and AIDS awareness impacting the community hard, and a difficult journey for the next 10 years of my life. In my job life here at Ramsey County, I led a mobile crisis team for 10 years, and part of what I did was make the rounds with police. We reached out to them to make a bridge. We said hey, we have social workers, I’m a social worker. Let’s work as a mental health team and change what’s happening in the community. In these later years, I had a much different relationship with the police. I would never have approached the police like that in 1984, whereas I feel much more comfortable doing that today.

Back in the early 1980s, how many folks would attend Pride?

Maybe 100 to 200. I have nothing against the parades of today, but they’re long, a huge number of people come to the park. In a good year, 400,000 people come to the park. It’s great. It’s a different feeling now than in the 1980s. There was sort of an area known as the gay beach, and there was a part of the beach where African-American people would gather up. That’s where the parade would start out from. It was grassroots.

You mentioned arriving in the Twin Cities during the HIV and AIDS epidemic. What was that like for you at the time?

Brian Theine, manager of St. Paul Social Services, in his office overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul. (Bryson Rosell / Pioneer Press)

At that time, I had friends and people who I had actually dated who ended up with HIV. It was a scary time, because there was not a lot known about it, services weren’t available to get help. Friends of mine who had been diagnosed at that time were told they had two years to live. One of my friends is still living with HIV. He lost a couple doctors along that way who died of it. Friends I’ve known have suicided. We were sort of the pariah because of HIV.

It was isolating, and making our community feel alone, but it was actually sort of unifying, too. Our lesbian sisters came to help their gay brothers when others wouldn’t do so. I was part of the founding of OutFront Minnesota — which in 1987 had a different name, the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council of Minnesota — because there weren’t a lot of support services at that time. We ran the hotlines, helping people get to therapy and direct care and making sure they had services in the home to try to have some quality of life. In a different job I was doing, I had to get people to volunteer to work on the floor of the nursing home where people went to rehab after the hospital, because finding staffing was a struggle.

A lot has changed legally, like the national legalization of gay marriage in 2015. And I’m sure a lot hasn’t changed depending upon where you are and what situation you’re in. Talk about your vantage point working in youth social services.

In the last three years or so, I came into this department of Children and Family Services to take on being a manager. There were people interested in this area of foster care and adoptions who wanted to work with the GLBTQ community to see if there was more they could do. The staff in our foster care and adoption unit also started showing up at Pride five years ago. At the same time, the department in social services here was getting consultation with the Human Rights Campaign, trying to figure out how to approach policies and procedures and change policies that needed to be refreshed.

If services didn’t join with our values, we wouldn’t place kids there. Today, we have had to move kids out of a foster home, or out of a residential treatment facility because of conflict with our policy. We all want to be accepted. Kids who identify as trans, or lesbian or gay, they’re no different from anybody else. We didn’t want to place them into placements where that was going to be a conflict. It’s written into our contracts for anyone who works with us, that recipients of our social services should not be subject to discrimination because of their race, gender expression, political beliefs, religion, etc. We’re not going to go into a contract with an agency in those kinds of situations.

How often would you assume kids in foster care are GLBTQ?

National numbers tell us as many as 30 percent of the kids identify. It’s a very GLBTQ community. Other surveys that are bit more local suggest it’s 27 percent, 28 percent, so it’s similar numbers. We’re trying to collect demographic data. We need to do that, because we have the anecdotal stories. That’s part of the systems change we’re working on.

Why are those numbers so large?

It’s one of those things that are hard to hear. We end up with kids who are homeless, living on the street as teens. They may need to do sex work to get inside and out of the cold on a cold winter night. Kids who are homeless had conflict in their homes. They’re struggling with gender identity or gender expression, and their home situation is too much to bear. The streets might feel safer than what they have at home.

There’s times we may need to reach out to a grandma or an aunt to say, ‘Can you take this kid in?’ It’s a whole variety of factors. There’s other things that happen to kids, like bullying in school, that still make coming out a hard time for people. There’s a lot of public schools that are trying to have Gay/Straight Alliances, or alliances to acknowledge our non-binary kids. But there’s these individual factors that can make life hard, and make it difficult to live without fear. And all of that contributes to what we’re seeing — kids who are couch-hopping or living on the street.

We need to reach out to their kinship support groups. People shouldn’t be in child protection just because they’re GLBTQ. They shouldn’t be in a group home or institutional care. We need to work with families upfront in a welfare way and not in a child-protection way. Ultimately, we don’t want any kid in foster care, and that’s part of our overall mission as a county — only to use foster care when we need it. That’s part of why we show up at Pride, to say, ‘Have you thought about being a foster parent?’ We need people who reflect the community. We keep saying it, and sometimes you have to hear it 15 times to get someone to sign up: ‘We need you.’

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