A 6.1-magnitude earthquake, the worst in two decades, has killed at least 1,000 people and injured several hundred others in rural southeastern Afghanistan. Local authorities anticipate that the figure will continue to rise in the coming hours.
The epicenter of the earthquake, which occurred late on Tuesday, was located 44 kilometers away from the town of Jost, in the southeast of the country and close to the border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey, which also reported a 4.5 degree aftershock. The tremor was felt by almost 120 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran and India, although in these last three countries no victims have been registered so far.
Dozens of small towns have been literally wiped off the map and the image on the ground was one of houses turned into rubble and bodies wrapped in sheets among the rubble. There are thousands of entire families missing. A drama of apocalyptic dimensions.
“The number of deaths will probably rise considering that these are remote areas in the mountains and that it will take time to know the details of what happened,” said a senior official from the Taliban Interior Ministry. Most of the dead have been confirmed in Paktiká province, neighboring Jost province, undoubtedly the two most affected. “There have been many dead neighbors. I myself have carried wounded. We have no means and we have had to take them to the hospital in vans,” a resident of the aforementioned province told the local media outlet Tolo News.
According to local authorities, only in the districts of Gayan and Barmal there are a thousand dead, which anticipates figures much higher than those confirmed so far, given that several demarcations of the country have been affected. Five helicopters from the Afghan Ministry of Defense, more than fifty ambulances and numerous health workers were deployed yesterday on the ground by local authorities.
From the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) he realized that Kabul had asked the humanitarian agencies for help and confirmed the arrival of teams to the places affected by the earthquake. However, in the afternoon
Yesterday, the organization admitted not having adequate rescue teams inside the country and stated that Turkey is the country “in the best position” to help. For his part, the UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, Mohamed Ayoya, warned of the situation of vulnerability in which the earthquake leaves thousands of children.
The challenge of the Taliban management of the catastrophe
One of the big questions now is the ability of the Taliban authorities to respond to the catastrophe, who regained power last August in a dazzling military operation twenty years after being overthrown by the forces of the Atlantic Alliance.
The Taliban regime has still not achieved the recognition of the international community, although its leaders claim to have met all “the requirements”. Only five states, China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, have kept their diplomatic representations open since the insurgent movement’s leaders came to power.
Many countries have imposed sanctions on the Taliban and international aid has been greatly reduced. A Foreign Ministry spokesman advanced that the regime will accept the entry of foreign aid. The supreme leader of the Taliban, the mysterious Haibatullah Akhundzada, limited himself yesterday to offering his condolences to the families of the deceased. Neighboring Pakistan has been one of the first countries to send rescue teams.
Since the seizure of power by the Taliban and the departure of international forces, Afghanistan is facing a serious economic crisis. Likewise, the tragedy occurs at the time that several Afghan regions are being hit by the floods, also causing numerous deaths and considerable material damage. The poor state of the roads is also making it difficult to transport the wounded to hospitals from the most affected rural areas.
A dramatic seismic history
It is not the first time that the Central Asian country has been hit by an earthquake of similar dimensions, a significant part of them recorded in the mountainous northern region of Hindu Kush, bordering Pakistan. Before, in 1997, a 7.2 earthquake on the border between Afghanistan and Iran took the lives of more than 1,500 people. A year later, in February, two earthquakes of magnitude 5.9 and 6 killed 4,000 people in the north of the country. Later, in May of that year, another magnitude 7 earthquake in the area left an even more dramatic toll: 5,000 dead.
In 2002, more than 1,200 people lost their lives as a result of one of these earthquakes. Three years later, in 2015, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake – one of the most severe in Afghanistan’s history – with an epicenter in the Hindu Kush hit the northeastern counties, killing several hundred people. At the beginning of this year, in January, the west of the country was the area affected by one of these frequent earthquakes, although on that occasion the death toll only exceeded two dozen.
Other deadly earthquakes
The most serious earthquakes in the last century in these countries occurred in 1935 and 2005, both in Pakistan. The first, on May 30, 1935, caused between 30,000 and 60,000 deaths, most of them in the Pakistani city of Quetta and in the province of Baluchistan. The second, in October 2005, hit the Kashmir region on the border between India and Pakistanand caused the death of 55,000 people and injuries to about 80,000 in the Pakistani area, and another 1,400 deaths in India.
The chronological list of the most serious earthquakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last 30 years is as follows:
January 31, 1991.– A 6.8 magnitude earthquake, with its epicenter in the Hindukush mountain range, shook Afghanistan and Pakistan and caused around 1,200 deaths, 800 of them in Afghanistan.
February 1998.– Two earthquakes, which occurred on February 4 and 6 in Rustaq district, in northern Afghanistan, with an intensity of 5.9 and 6 degrees, respectively, caused the death of at least 4,000 people.
May 30, 1998.- An earthquake measuring 7 degrees on the Richter scale hits the north of Afghanistan again, in particular the province of Takhar, causing around 5,000 deaths.
March 3, 2002.- At least 70 dead and between 100 and 200 missing in an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale with its epicenter in the Khuln area, northeast of Afghanistan, and which was also felt in India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
March 25, 2002.- Between 1,800 and 3,000 people are killed, nearly 4,000 injured and 20,000 left homeless as a result of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck northern Afghanistan, with its epicenter in the city of Nahrin. Baglán province was the most affected.
October 8, 2005.– Kashmir, a border region between Pakistan and India, suffers a devastating earthquake that leaves some 55,000 dead and nearly 80,000 injured in the Pakistani area. The seismic movement, with its epicenter near the city of Muzaffarabad, which was destroyed, also caused at least 1,400 deaths in India.
October 29, 2008.– Around 150 people perish in a 6.2 earthquake registered in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
June 11, 2012.- Two earthquakes of 5.7 and 5.4, with an epicenter in the Hindukush mountain range, leave around 300 dead in Baghlan province, Afghanistan.
September 24, 2013.– Around 375 people die, although other sources put the number at a thousand, in the province of Balochistan, in Pakistan, as a result of a 7.7-magnitude earthquake, which mainly affected Awaran and Mashké, where 20 schoolgirls died. when a school collapsed. After the earthquake, an island emerged, named Zalzala Koh, in the Arabian Sea.
26 October 2015.- A 7.5 earthquake in northeastern Afghanistan, with an epicenter in Badakhshan, causes at least 400 deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan.