It was a sad Wednesday in Afghanistan as a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit the eastern part of the country, killing at least one thousand people, and injuring almost two thousand, including children. The natural disaster occurred in the city of Khost, located in the Paktika Province, which is close to the country’s border with Pakistan.
According to Bilal Karimi, the earthquake killed hundreds and destroyed many houses.
“A severe earthquake shook four districts of Paktika province, killing and injuring hundreds of our countrymen and destroying dozens of houses,” Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesman for the Taliban government, tweeted.
He urged humanitarian agencies to send “teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe.”
So far, the death toll is about 1,000, but there are indications that the figure could even be higher as the earthquake had happened at midnight when residents of the mountainous region were asleep.
“The death toll is likely to rise as some of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains, and it will take some time to collect details,” interior ministry official Salahuddin Ayubi said.
Mustafa Madatkhail said he is “sure that deaths and injuries will continue to increase more and more.”
Faisal, a resident in the Paktika region, said the earthquake struck in the middle of the night, killing many and destroying homes.
“It was about midnight when the quake struck. It destroyed the houses of our neighbors. When we arrived, there were many dead bodies and wounded. They sent us to the hospitals, and I saw many dead bodies,” Faisal said.
Samira Sayed, a member of the International Rescue Committee, said what happened was “absolutely devastating.”
“We have upwards of 1,000 people killed, scores more injured,” she said in an interview with PBS. “We hear that 1,800 homes were destroyed as a result of this earthquake that took place in the middle of the night.”
These areas that are most affected are some of the poorest and most remote areas in the country. They lack the appropriate infrastructure. People do not have the economic means to build proper housing. And as a result, most of these areas had mud homes that have basically been razed to the ground”, she added.
Rescue teams immediately started evacuating survivors, but the task was almost too much for the already overstretched Afghan workers. Residents now use their bare hands to search the debris for survivors, but unfortunately, survivors are hard to find.
A few helicopters that managed to reach the area evacuated a few survivors and delivered much-needed medical supplies and food to those in the area.
At the moment, it is difficult to get information about the region where the disaster occurred because the incident affected communication lines. That is another challenger that has hindered rescue operations.
THE TALIBAN’S CALL FOR AID
The Taliban government is already facing multiple financial crises after it was sanctioned for grabbing power months ago. Most countries are yet to recognize the Taliban government which took over power after the U.S troops left the country. Interestingly, the Taliban government did not hold back from requesting assistance from the world.
Mawlawi Sharaffudin, the deputy minister of natural disaster, said no country would face a disaster of this magnitude and not ask for help.
“When such a big incident happens in any country, there is a need for help from other countries. It is very difficult for us to be able to respond to this huge incident. We ask the international community to cooperate with us and continue their support,” Mawlawi said.
According to the Afghan Taliban government spokesperson, the Prime Minister called for an emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace, where he called out to all relevant agencies to send in relief materials.
“An emergency meeting was held at the Presidential Palace today under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Alhaj Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund to provide all possible assistance to the earthquake victims in Paktika and Khost,” Zabihullah said on Twitter.
“In addition to expressing sympathy for the quake victims, the meeting also instructed all relevant agencies to send emergency relief teams to the area,” he added.
Top officials of the country have posted the country’s account details on different social media platforms. The nation has received several donations. However, it appears that the disaster is not enough to move the world powers to make donations to the troubled Afghans.
President Biden has asked USAID and other relevant agencies to investigate the incident and see what the U.S can do regarding the earthquake. It is in doubt if the U.S will provide any support despite the calls for help.
However, it appears that the country is already receiving massive support from individuals, organizations, and various governments.
“A massive wave of relief efforts is underway inside and outside the quake-hit area. It seems that more Afghans are serious about ending their pain. Every Afghan has heartfelt sympathy for his oppressed countrymen, our nation is one and our pain is shared,” Zabuhullah said on Twitter.
There are reports that Qatar has sent in planes to help victims, and countries like Pakistan and India have promised relief materials to Afghanistan. Japan has also vowed to provide further assistance to Afghanistan. Seiji Kihara, the deputy chief cabinet secretary, said they are working with international organizations to achieve this.
“We are currently cooperating with international organizations to collect information on the needs of the local area,” he said.
Apart from Japan, South Korea has pledged to donate $ 1 million in aid to victims. “The government has decided to provide $ 1 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to victims of the earthquake that hit Paktika province of Afghanistan,” Choi-Young-Sam, the spokesperson of the foreign ministry said.
More countries are likely to do the same in the coming days.
Recall that billions of dollars of Afghanistan’s money are withheld by the United States to punish the Taliban for overthrowing the Afghan government, and there is no sign that the U.S will release the fund at this time.
AFGHANISTAN’S HISTORY OF EARTHQUAKES
Earthquakes have become a regular disaster in Afghanistan. The country’s location makes it prone to such disasters. In 2022 alone, the Afghans had experienced four earthquakes.
At least seven thousand Afghans have also died of earthquakes in ten years. An average of 560 people die from earthquakes every year However, this recent incident is the worse in over two decades.