Afghanistan earthquake: More than 1,000 people killed after magnitude 5.9 quake

Afghanistan earthquake: More than 1,000 people killed after magnitude 5.9 quake

The humanitarian disaster comes at a difficult time for the Taliban-ruled country, currently in the throes of famine and economic crisis.

The shocks hit at 1:24 a.m. local time Wednesday (4:54 p.m. ET Tuesday) about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which is near the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey. States (USGS).

The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the USGS, which designated it a yellow alert level, indicating a relatively localized impact.

Most of the deaths occurred in Paktika province, in Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok districts, according to the Ministry of State for Disaster Management.

The death toll stands at more than 1,000 and at least 1,500 people have been injured “in Gayan and Barmal districts of Paktika province alone,” said Mohammad Amin Hozaifa, head of the information and culture department of Paktika province. , to CNN in a phone call on Wednesday.

The official expects the number of victims to rise as search and effort missions continue.

In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several more injured, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management authority said.

Photos from Paktika province, just south of Khost province, show houses turned to rubble with only one or two walls standing amid the rubble and broken roof beams.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resource management expert, said the quake coincided with heavy monsoon rains in the region, making traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.

“The timing of the earthquake (in the) dark of night… and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers from its epicenter caused a higher number of casualties,” it added.

A team of doctors and seven helicopters were dispatched to the area to transport the wounded to nearby hospitals, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday.

This comes as almost half of the country’s population, 20 million people, are experiencing acute hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report in May. It’s a situation aggravated by the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021, which prompted the US and its allies to freeze around $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut off international funding.

The situation has crippled an economy already heavily dependent on aid. Following the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, its economy has gone into free fall, with the World Bank forecasting in April that a “combination of declining incomes and rising prices has caused a serious deterioration in the level of household life”.

Many of the areas' traditional houses are made of mud and other natural materials, making them vulnerable to damage.
The earthquake struck at 1:24 am about 46 kilometers southwest of the city of Khost.

The Taliban held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to organize the transport of the wounded and material aid to the victims and their families, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.

Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund called the meeting at the country’s Presidential Palace to instruct all relevant agencies to send emergency relief teams to the affected area, Mujahid said in a tweet.

“Measures were also taken to provide cash assistance and treatment,” Mujahid said, adding that the agencies were “instructed to use air and ground transportation for the delivery of food, clothing, medicine and other necessities and for the transportation of the wounded.” “.

Afghan Deputy Minister of State for Disaster Management Mawlawi Sharafuddin Muslim said on Wednesday that “the Islamic Emirate will pay 100,000 AFN ($1,116.19) to the families of those killed in the earthquake and 50,000 ($558.10) to the families of the wounded.”

The government also highlighted the need for foreign aid.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for the generous support of all countries, international organizations, individuals and foundations in providing and delivering urgent humanitarian aid,” read a press release from the country’s diplomatic missions.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said its teams were on the ground to respond to emergencies, including providing medicine, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.

But a WHO official told CNN’s Eleni Giokos that logistics were stretched. “All resources have been mobilized, not only from nearby provinces but also from Kabul, including medical supplies, doctors, nurses, health workers, ambulances and emergency officers who are trained to deal with these kinds of situations,” said Alaa AbouZeid, emergency team. incident leader and manager at the WHO office in Afghanistan.

“The situation is still evolving, and we are pulling in more resources as the situation calls for it,” he said. “Resources are stretched here, not just for this region, but we expect the situation to evolve in the next few hours.”

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), heavy rain and wind are “hindering efforts and helicopters were reportedly unable to land this afternoon.”

“Immediate needs identified include emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food assistance and WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] support,” UNOCHA said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Afghan Red Crescent Society volunteers help people affected by the earthquake in Giyan district.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed condolences and an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday. “Deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake in Afghanistan, which resulted in the loss of innocent life,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the pain and sadness of their Afghan brothers. The relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in its time of need.”

India expressed “sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families,” according to a tweet from India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday.

Pope Francis said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and for their families” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope help can be sent there to alleviate all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan has a long history of earthquakes, many of which occur in the mountainous Hindu Kush region that borders Pakistan.

In 2015, an earthquake that rocked parts of South Asia killed more than 300 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
More than 1,000 people died in 2002 after two earthquakes in the Nahrin region of northwestern Afghanistan. A powerful earthquake hit the same region in 1998, killing about 4,700 people, according to records from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

CNN’s Hada Messiah, Adam Pourahmadi, Aliza Kassi and Martin Goillandeau contributed to this report.

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