Earthquake in Afghanistan: death toll exceeds 1,000

Status: 06/22/2022 1:48 p.m

The Afghan authorities report more than 1,000 fatalities and at least 1,500 injuries after the severe earthquake. The number could increase further as the region is remote and difficult to access for aid workers.

According to official figures, at least 1,000 people died in a devastating earthquake in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. At least 1,500 residents in eastern Afghanistan were injured after the quake late Tuesday evening, the state news agency Bakhtar reported.

A whole village destroyed

An eyewitness told the dpa news agency about the destruction in the affected areas: “There is great chaos everywhere. I counted a hundred bodies in an hour,” said journalist Rahim Chan Chushal. “The horror is great. The parents cannot find their children and the children cannot find their parents. Everyone wonders who is dead and who is alive. The houses are made of clay and that is why they were all destroyed by the strong earthquake.”

According to the government, dozens of houses in Paktika and Khost provinces were destroyed. Many animals also died. Afghan media reported that one village had been completely destroyed. The type of construction in the poor and economically weak region is usually not earthquake-proof, and many families live close together. In addition, the earthquake is likely to have surprised the residents at night.

More victims feared

Meanwhile, civil protection fears an even higher number of victims. The rescue work was made more difficult by the access to the remote mountain region. Several helicopters were sent to the accident region to help the local people. Red Crescent aid workers have also arrived in the region and the Taliban government in Kabul held an emergency meeting at the presidential palace.

However, after the Islamist Taliban took power in the summer of 2021 and the chaotic withdrawal of US troops, the international community largely withdrew from Afghanistan. This should make aid operations in the earthquake area significantly more difficult. The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan had recently deteriorated extremely. There is a shortage of food and medicine.

The severe earthquake occurred in the Afghan-Pakistani border region of Paktika. The center of the earthquake was 50 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost.

5.9 magnitude tremor

The US earthquake monitoring station (USGS) reported a magnitude of 5.9 for the quake shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday (local time) and a slightly weaker aftershock. Accordingly, the center of the earthquake was around 50 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost near the border with Pakistan at a depth of around ten kilometers. Pakistani authorities registered the earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1. According to Pakistani information, the tremors were felt in large parts of the neighboring country – including in the capital Islamabad and even in Lahore in the east of the country. Panic broke out in some places, but according to initial information, nothing was known about damage or injuries in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his dismay on the Internet and promised help for the people in the neighboring country. Support was also offered from Europe. The European Union’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, wrote on Twitter that the EU is closely monitoring the situation in the Afghan earthquake zone and is “ready to coordinate and deliver emergency aid”.

Pope Francis prayed for the victims in Rome. “I express my closeness to the injured and those affected by the earthquake,” said the head of the Catholic Church on Wednesday at the end of the general audience in front of believers and visitors in St. Peter’s Square. The 85-year-old said he prayed especially for those who lost their lives and for their families.

Often severe earthquakes

Heavy earthquakes repeatedly occur in the Hindu Kush region and neighboring countries, where the Arabian, Indian and Eurasian plates meet. The damage is often devastating because of the poor structural fabric of many Afghan houses. In 1998 an earthquake shook northern Afghanistan, killing several thousand people. In Pakistan in 2005, a massive earthquake killed more than 75,000 people and left over 3.5 million homeless. In neighboring Iran, an earthquake in 2003 killed more than 40,000 people and largely destroyed the historic city of Bam.

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