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Village life has always been tough for Afghans in the rugged mountains of the east, but compared to what they are enduring today it was paradise.

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled through the area last Wednesday, killing more than 1,000 people, injuring three times that many, and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

“If life before was not really good — because for years there was war — the earthquake has made it even harder for us,” says Malin Jan, who lost two daughters in the quake.

All 14 houses in his village of Akhtar Jan were flattened, and survivors — including some from outlying hamlets — are now living in tents among the ruins.

Two small makeshift camps have been set up in dusty gardens, with stunted grass grazed by three cows, a donkey, two goats and a flock of chickens.

In tents pitched in a circle, about 35 families — more than 300 people including many children — are trying to survive.

Living in such close proximity to non-relatives is anathema to Afghans — particularly in the conservative countryside where women rarely interact with strangers.

Sanitary conditions are likely to deteriorate rapidly — there are no toilets, and people have to draw water from a well to wash.

“Before the earthquake, life was nice and beautiful,” says villager Abdu Rahman Abid.

“We had our houses and God was good.”

He gives a gruesome count of those he lost in the rubble — his parents, his wife, three daughters, a son and a nephew.

“The earthquake killed eight members of my family and my house is destroyed,” he says, looking weary.

“There is a big difference now. Before we had our own houses and everything we needed. Now we have nothing and our families are living in tents.”

Neighbor Malin Jan is already looking ahead, fearful of what the future holds.

The harsh winter, which lasts almost five months in this remote mid-mountain region, will arrive in September.

“If our children stay in this situation their lives will be in danger because of the rain and snow,” he says.

Massoud Sakib, 37, who lost his wife and three daughters, also fears for the months ahead.

“Even living in a house is difficult during winter, so if our houses are not rebuilt by then our lives will be in danger,” he says.

On Saturday, the UN’s top official in the country, Ramiz Alakbarov, arrived from Kabul by helicopter to visit the region — including the village of Akhtar Jan — with representatives of each UN agency.

Alakbarov was moved to tears as he met a young girl and was offered tea by a survivor, praising the “resilience and courage” of the people.

But their tenacity only stretches so far.

Interviewed by AFP, the Afghan minister of health, Qalandar Edad, warned of the “mental and psychological” suffering of victims.

Malin Jan said the villagers were doing their best to help each other through the crisis.

“When a family is hit by a tragedy, the others naturally come to surround and support them,” he said.

“Everything is affected… we console each other.”

But they cannot do it alone, adds villager Abdul Rahman Abib.

“We ask the world to help us as long as we need it. It must share our pain.”

Business

Sri Lanka central bank holds rates steady

Policy makers are assessing effects of interest hikes this year on cooling price growth, amid an unprecedented economic crisis.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has kept its key rates steady, a widely anticipated move as it awaits the effect of past hikes to trickle through the economy while a fall in global commodity prices is also expected to soothe domestic inflation.

The Standing Lending Facility rate stayed at 15.5 percent on Thursday, while the Standing Deposit Facility Rate remained at 14.5 percent.

Eleven out of 15 economists and analysts polled by the Reuters news agency had expected rates to remain unchanged.

The central bank has raised rates by a record 950 basis points so far this year to battle high inflation in Sri Lanka, which is wilting under a severe economic crisis.

A foreign exchange shortage has left the government struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, fertilisers, food and medicine.

Inflation hit 60.8 percent year-on-year in July, and food costs expanded by a searing 90.9 percent, according to the latest government data.

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News

Japanese fashion pioneer Hanae Mori dies

Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori, nicknamed “Madame Butterfly” for her signature winged motifs, has died. She was 96.

She died of old age in her Tokyo home on August 11 and was given a private funeral, local media reported.

Mori was most famous for being the first Japanese – and Asian – designer to join the hallowed ranks of haute couture designers in 1977.

The exclusive Parisian club is seen as the pinnacle of high-end fashion.

Born in western Japan in 1926, Mori graduated from the Tokyo Woman’s Christian University.

She opened her first atelier above a noodle shop in Tokyo in 1951. She has described meeting Coco Chanel during a trip to Paris in the 1960s as a “turning point” in her career, and said that Chanel inspired her to design for women to stand out rather than fit in.

Mori went on to dress Hollywood celebrities such as Grace Kelly and famous personalities such as Nancy Reagan. Japan’s then-Crown Princess Masako – now empress – wore a Hanae Mori wedding gown for her marriage to Emperor Naruhito in 1993.

Her outfits, often featuring butterfly prints, were also popular among career women. When she began to make a name herself in the fashion world, it was still unusual for a woman to head business, much less one of global fame.

Mori’s designs often mixed elements from the East and West, such as dresses with inspired by kimonos.

She also created costumes for on-stage performances, including traditional Japanese Noh and Kabuki theatre and a performance of “Madame Butterfly” in 1985.

She was presented with the Legion of Honor by the French government in 2002.

Agencies

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Arabic and international

CDC: Gorgeous island nation in Asia now at ‘high’ travel risk for Covid

The CDC added three new destinations on Monday to its “high” risk list for Covid-19, including an Asian island nation in the Pacific beloved by tourists for its stunning beaches.
The Philippines, a country of 7,000 tropical islands featuring stunning oceanic scenery, delicious food and people renowned for their hospitality, joins Russia and mountain-trekker favorite Nepal in the “high” risk group, also called Level 3.
Locations at Level 3 now account for almost 130 of the roughly 235 places monitored by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — more than half of all listings.
Level 3 became the top rung in terms of risk level in April after the CDC overhauled its ratings system for assessing Covid-19 risk for travelers.
The designation applies to places that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. Level 2 and Level 1 are considered “moderate” and “low” risk, respectively.

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