By: Bridie Beamish
On Oct. 7, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck 25 miles west of Herat, a city in the western province in Afghanistan. More than 90 percent of those who died were women and children. Two days later, on Oct. 10, another earthquake of the same magnitude hit the nation. Combined, the earthquakes killed 1,200 people, injured 2,000, and destroyed 12 villages and over 1,000 homes.
Due to multiple fault lines and movement among three tectonic plates, earthquakes are common in Afghanistan. The disasters destroyed numerous buildings in Herat City, including the Musalla of Gawhar Shah, a 15th-century Islamic religious complex, and the Great Mosque of Herat, one of the oldest mosques in the region. Herat’s regional public hospital also overflowed with patients, resulting in medical personnel working in a makeshift triage station outside of the center as waves of injured civilians came in.
Prior to the second earthquake, thousands of individuals and families slept outside in tents or makeshift shelters for fear of aftershocks and more earthquakes. A man sleeping in his yard explained, “When my body started shaking I realized it was another quake. Everyone sleeping outside was shouting and screaming.”
In Zindajan, villagers had to use shovels and bare hands to search for more than 500 missing people. Rescue efforts stopped on Oct. 10, when civilians began consolidating their efforts to recover remains and held mass burials. The United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declared that, in Zindajan, “100% of homes are estimated to have been completely destroyed.”
Anamaria Salhuana, Afghanistan’s World Food Programme’s (WFP) deputy country director, asserted that the earthquakes “come at a time of immense humanitarian needs when 15 million people do not know where their next meal will come from,” and that “WFP urgently needs $400 million to help 7 million of the most vulnerable people survive the coming months.” The WFP is sending over 81 tons of food to the region. The US Agency for International Development is currently providing 12 million dollars in immediate humanitarian assistance to help with the needs of affected civilians.
Additionally, the UN provided tents for pregnant women to stay and receive care, ambulances, solar lamps, hygiene kits, and other forms of aid to displaced families. The United Nations Children’s Fund also proposed a 20 million dollar appeal to aid the estimated 13,000 children and families affected by the earthquake. In reference to the disaster, one man by the name of Zarin announced, “Everything is gone.”
(Sources: NY Times, AP News, CNN, CBS News, BBC News)