PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- In the dingy and poorly lit neurology wing of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, four young boys lay in a row, unconscious and motionless in their beds, surrounded by older male relatives.
The second boy from the end was 20-month-old Afan Wadood, one of the thousands wounded in Monday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The official death toll is almost 400, but is expected to climb higher as Pakistan’s military reaches the far-flung remote areas in the country’s north that were the hardest hit.
Afan was from Bajaur, on the border of the two countries. His uncles Fazal and Hafizullah stood over him, Afan’s head wrapped in a bandage, one eye flickering open and closed, his breathing shallow and fast.
“It’s OK, he’s getting better,” Hafizullah said. “A brick has fallen on his head. He was playing outside the house in the street.”
Afan’s skulled was fractured, he said, and he was operated on last night.
“He is coming into conscious gradually,” Hafizullah added. “We pray he may recover soon.”
But just minutes later, Hafizullah grabbed my elbow and said, “He died.”
Afan’s face had turned ashen white, his chest had stopped moving. The men around the bed stared at the little body in disbelief, before the crying started.
Afan’s father, Abdul, appeared, collapsing into the arms of more than a dozen men, relatives of the other wounded. They sat him down, one man asked if he had other children. Yes, Afan was a twin, Abdul responded. And you’ll have more, he was told. But for tonight, that’s little comfort.