what we know about the devastating earthquake that killed at least a thousand people

what we know about the devastating earthquake that killed at least a thousand people

A humanitarian drama. At least a thousand people died and 1,500 others were injured, on the night of Tuesday June 21 to Wednesday June 22, in a powerful earthquake in Afghanistan. The earthquake struck a remote border area in the southeast of the country. Franceinfo summarizes what you need to know about this disaster.

Where did the earthquake occur?

With a magnitude of 5.9, it occurred at a depth of 10 km around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday June 22 in southeastern Afghanistan, very close to the border with Pakistan, according to the Institute. American seismological survey (USGS). The provinces of Paktika and Khost, shown on the map below, are particularly affected.

The earthquake was felt as far away as the capital Kabul, located about 200 km north of the epicenter. It was also in neighboring Pakistan, where one person was killed and a few houses damaged.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies at the junction between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. These disasters can be particularly destructive due to the low resilience of rural Afghan homes.

What is the human toll?

“People dig grave after grave”said Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, an official from Paktika province. In his province alone, the record “has reached 1,000 dead and this figure is increasing”, he specified. According to him, some 1,500 people were also injured in the region. “We were sleeping when we heard a loud noise”said Shahmira, a survivor.

“I screamed, I thought my family was buried in the rubble and I was the only one” who survived.

Shahmira, victim of the earthquake

at AFP

The Afghan government fears that the death toll will rise further. An image released by the Taliban shows residents digging a long trench of graves to bury the dead. “Much of the region is mountainous and travel is difficult. It will take time to transport the dead and injured”explained Mohammad Abbas Akhund, the Minister of Natural Disasters, in a press release.

“From now on, I am alone, I no longer have anyone”, confides to AFP Bibi Hawa, in tears on her hospital bed. At least a dozen of his family members died in the earthquake. It is already the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan in more than two decades. The deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan’s recent history (5,000 dead) took place in 1998 in the provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan, in the northeast of the country.

What is the material damage?

“We believe that almost 2,000 houses are destroyed”, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan. According to him, the number of displaced could be much higher. And the lack of clearing equipment is also slowing down rescue operations.

A destroyed house in Khost province on June 22, 2022. (Sardar Shafaq / Anadolu Agency / AFP)

“It is also raining and all the houses are destroyed. There are no tents, no food. People are still trapped under the rubble”describes Mohammad Amin Huzaifa. “Given the heavy rains and the cold, which are unusual in this season, emergency shelters are an immediate priority”also alerts the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations.

What is the humanitarian response?

“We need immediate help”, claims Mohammad Amin Huzaifa. Pakistan has started sending aid, including food, tents and blankets. For its part, the UN announces that partner humanitarian organizations have launched preparations to help the affected families. The population needs shelter but also emergency care, food and non-food aid and assistance with water, hygiene and sanitation services, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent will redirect three mobile health teams to meet the needs. Additional medical supplies are being mobilized for dispatch from Kabul. “4,000 blankets, 800 tents, 800 cooking utensils, 800 tarpaulins, 1,500 laundry bins and hundreds of mattresses, pillows, blankets and food aid were sent in 15 vehicles”, details the Afghan Red Crescent on Twitter. In addition, 450 additional tents are being sent to the region.

“The European Union is monitoring the situation (…) and stands ready to coordinate and provide emergency aid”, Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy to Afghanistan, announced on Twitter. The United States say to themselves “deeply saddened” and examine their “response options”. Limited in number and capacity, the emergency services in Afghanistan are unsuited to managing such a natural disaster on their own. International aid is also difficult to mobilize, as NGOs and international institutions have been less present since the Taliban took power in August 2021.