The first desperately needed aid trickled in Monday for earthquake victims in Afghanistan’s mountains - on trucks where roads were passable, on donkeys where snow and ice were too deep.
Survivors slowly walked out, with stories of whole families lost.
Frozen bodies were strewn across devastated towns and villages, many still unburied after Wednesday’s 6.1-magnitude quake crumbled hillside homes of mud and brick or buried them under landslides.
Rescue workers say as many as 5,000 died in the quake and a series of ruinous aftershocks.
One girl wept as she tried to recount how her entire family of seven was crushed under the rubble of their home in the northeastern village of Khojah Khirat.
“It’s so painful, so painful,” 7-year-old Bahrish whispered, her eyes brimming with tears. “I don’t know if I have any relatives left.”
She was among more than 100 people Monday in the only clinic in the hard-hit town of Rustaq, reached by an Associated Press reporter on one of the first aid flights into the quake area.
The patients lay in darkness on the building’s dirt floor - the clinic’s power had gone out.
Hundreds of villagers carried heavy bundles and led goat herds down muddy roads in the region, seeking shelter or fleeing in fear of more tremors.
A Pakistani air force cargo jet and a Red Cross turbo-prop plane landed in nearby Hajaghar on Monday, bringing medical and sanitation supplies, blankets and tents to the thousands left homeless in temperatures below freezing.
Military trucks carrying the relief supplies lumbered slowly toward Rustaq, 25 miles away, where hundreds of quake refugees were seeking shelter.
“We don’t know where the (refugees) will stay, and we are trying to organize a camp so they don’t just spread around the town,” said Juan Martinez of the Red Cross.
Qari Amir Allam, an official with the military alliance that controls the region, said Monday that at least 4,000 people were killed in the quake and subsequent aftershocks. Previous estimates have ranged from 2,000 to 5,000.
Twenty villages were destroyed or damaged by the landslides, said Allam, who met the cargo flight.