Double Disaster Strikes Afghanistan
Devastating Earthquakes Strike Afghanistan: A Closer Look at the Catastrophes
By: Kirstie Kinnaird
Afghanistan, a country known for its rich history and resilient people, recently experienced a catastrophic earthquake that left the nation in a state of shock and devastation. The seismic event, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, occurred south of the Herat province area. A disaster that caused widespread devastation, claimed numerous lives, and has left countless others injured and displaced. Strong aftershocks followed measuring 6.3, 5.9 and 5.5, as well as additional smaller shocks.
The earthquake, which struck at 11:00 am (07:30 BST) on Saturday October 7th, caught residents off guard. Panic and chaos ensued, killing many on impact and injuring at least 150 people instantly. A senior Taliban leader has said “it is one of the deadliest earthquakes to strike the country in two decades.” Buildings have crumbled, including Herat’s historic grand mosque and castle; roads have cracked, and infrastructure has collapsed. Over 1,300 homes destroyed, and many residents left homeless and vulnerable as they sleep outdoors in tents, public parks and on the streets in fear of more aftershocks.
Picture by: Hey Paul
Local authorities have reported a significant loss of life, claiming “The numbers are increasing hour by hour.” The death toll currently surpasses 2,400 people. Additionally, more than 1,000 are injured and have been rushed to nearby hospitals, where medical personnel are working tirelessly to provide critical care. The number of causalities is expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue.
On Wednesday 11th October, four days after the initial disaster, Afghanistan was struck by a second earthquake. This subsequent earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, occurred in the capital of Herat province, resulting in further exacerbating the damage and hampering relief efforts. The second earthquake has caused one fatality and over 120 reportedly injured, with the numbers still rising.
Fortunately, the impact of this earthquake has been mitigated by the number of residents being prepared for the aftershocks and taking precautionary measures, such as camping outside in tents, resulting in fewer casualties compared to the initial earthquake. Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of these back-to-back earthquakes has left communities traumatized and in urgent need of support.
On Wednesday, however, Afghan officials drastically reduced the number of fatalities from the earthquakes to roughly 1,000. They have claimed that misunderstanding had resulted from relief agencies' duplicate counting, logistical issues and predictions.
In the aftermath of these devastating earthquakes, numerous villages have been reduced to rubble and the loss of life continues to mount as search and rescue operations work tirelessly to locate survivors trapped under the debris. The impact on medical facilities has been overwhelming, with hospitals struggling to provide adequate care to the injured. The 600-bed facilities reached full capacity on Saturday afternoon following the earlier quakes.
Additionally, relief and rescue efforts in response to Saturday’s earthquake have been hindered by a shortage of overseas aid, which previously served as a backbone of the economy but, since the Taliban took control in 2021, has dwindled.
Additionally, the city of Herat experienced a power outage on Wednesday morning, worsening the situation further. Residents have reported that drinking water has turned brown, and access to food has become limited as many shops have either closed or been destroyed. As a precautionary measure, hundreds of residents from more than 2,000 villages across Herat province, home to roughly 3 million people, began evacuating the city on Wednesday afternoon.
This resulted in congested roads as people and vehicles sought safety in the nearby desert, fearing the possibility of another earthquake.