News Wrap: Recovery efforts underway after Afghanistan’s worst earthquake in 20 years

In our news wrap Thursday, rescuers searched for survivors after Afghanistan's worst earthquake in 20 years, Russian forces gained more ground in eastern Ukraine, EU leaders designated Ukraine and Moldova as candidates to join the bloc, former COVID coordinator said former President Trump underplayed the pandemic, and a Florida judge approved $1 billion settlement in a deadly condo collapse.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: Afghanistan's earthquake survivors clawed at rubble with their bare hands hunting for victims.

    The U.N. said more than 700 people died in the country's worst quake in 20 years. Afghan officials said it is more than 1,000. Men dug trenches today to bury the dead in hard-hit Gayan district right on the border with Pakistan.

    Nick Schifrin has our report.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Eastern Afghanistan, it is time to bury the dead. Yesterday's earthquake killed so many here, residents lay their neighbors, their families to rest in a mass grave. Only a rock marks each person lost.

    This is one of Afghanistan's poorest corners, where homes of masonry and mud collapsed with entire families inside. Neither the West nor the Afghan government develop this area. So heavy rains turned dirt roads into streams.

    The Taliban government began delivering aid by helicopter. One brought Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran. He took this photo at the devastated district where he grew up.

  • Khalid Zadran, Kabul Police Spokesman (through translator):

    Entire families are gone, families of 18 people, 19 people. All of them have died. There's nobody left.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. has frozen some of the Afghan government's assets since the Taliban seized the country and once again restricted women's rights.

    But the U.S. is the largest provider of humanitarian aid. And, today, U.N. aid, in part funded by the U.S., began arriving.

  • Khalid Zadran (through translator):

    We thank everyone who has delivered some help, but it's not enough. We do need a lot of support from the international community.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Is the Taliban government capable of providing assistance to so many people who need it?

  • Khalid Zadran (through translator):

    The current government did their best. There's a kind of U.S. economic occupation, because they have frozen our funds that we could use to help victims at this critical time.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But the challenge for an insurgency-turned-government is enormous, as is the scale of loss. Officials admitted today there is no hope of finding anyone else alive.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So difficult.

    Meantime, Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine gained more ground in their grinding advance, but there was word that the U.S. will send still more military aid to Kyiv, $450 million worth. Also today, European Union leaders formally designated Ukraine and neighboring Moldova as candidates to join the bloc.

    State media in Iran say that a court has ordered the United States to pay $4.3 billion for the killings of nuclear scientists. Iran has accused Israel of the killings, and the court cited U.S. support for Israel. The ruling is considered mostly symbolic.

    On the pandemic, the COVID coordinator for the Trump White House, Dr. Deborah Birx, said today that the former president and top aides underplayed the danger. She told a congressional hearing that the administration created a false sense of security, even as death rates jumped in Asia and Europe.

  • Dr. Deborah Birx, Former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator:

    Creating the sense among the American people that this would act and basically have deadly — and have the fatalities equivalent to flu created a sense among the American people that this was not going to be a serious pandemic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Also today, the current White House COVID coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, said the Biden administration is making COVID tests more accessible for those who are blind and who are visually impaired.

    Pope Francis today ordered the publication of 170 volumes on Pope Pius XII's treatment of Jews during World War II. That comes amid renewed criticism that Pius did too little to save Jewish lives in the Nazi Holocaust. The 2,700 files include appeals for help from Jewish families and groups.

    A judge in Florida has approved a settlement of more than $1 billion in a Miami condo collapse that killed 98 people. The payout goes mostly to survivors and those who lost relatives in the disaster in Surfside. It will come from insurance, engineering and property firms that are suspected of contributing to the collapse. Under the settlement, they do not admit any wrongdoing.

    On Wall Street today, stocks managed to recoup more of their recent losses. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 194 points to close at 30677. The Nasdaq rose 179 points. That's more than 1.5 percent. The S&P 500 was up nearly 1 percent.

    And for the first time, a bloodhound is the nation's top dog. Trumpet earned best in show last night at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Tarrytown, New York. He is the first bloodhound to take the prize in the event's history.

    Congratulations, Trumpet.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": the FDA puts an end to Juul brand vaping products as part of a crackdown on nicotine; we examine the Biden administration's proposal to expand protections for students 50 years after Title IX; plus much more.

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