People during rescue operation. (Photo: Ghayor Waziri)

People during rescue operation. (Photo: Ghayor Waziri)

This week a major earthquake hit Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and parts of India, killing more than 300 people and injuring thousands more. 

The epicenter of the 7.5-magnitude quake was in the Hindu Kush mountain range, in Afghanistan’s remote north. 

As Ghayor Waziri reports from Kabul, recovery efforts are underway as the death toll continues to climb.

On the afternoon October 26, a major earthquake shook Afghanistan. Tremors from the quake were also felt in neighboring Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India. 

When the quake hit people here in Kabul fled from their homes and offices in shock. 

Fifty year-old Muhammad Zaher says it is the worst quake Afghanistan has ever experienced. 

“I never in my lifetime have felt this kind of powerful earthquake,” he says, “When I come out from my house I saw that every one was in shock and had also fled to the street. I was so afraid, thanks to God for saving me.”

Telecommunications went down and Muhammad wasn’t able to contact his family directly after the quake to check if they were safe. 

Another Kabul resident, Abdul Ahmad, was in his car at the time.

“At first I thought there was a car crash and that was why everyone was running, then I saw people coming out from buildings and they were running as well, I thought it might be a suicide attack, it all felt very dangerous,” recalls Ahmad.

Rescue efforts are underway but officials say it could take days to assess the full extent of the damage and death toll in remote areas. 

The epicenter of the quake was in Badakhshan, a province effectively controlled by Taliban militants – making it difficult to access, conduct rescues and deliver aid. 

Presidential spokesperson Zafer Hashimi, says that in Afghanistan the current death toll is at115. 

“Reports that we have received show that more than 115 people have died and more than 550 others were injured,” he says, “In different provinces of Afghanistan more than 4,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged due to earthquake.”  

In neighboring Pakistan, the quake has claimed more than 200 lives…  

While the quake destroyed several buildings and houses in Kabul, remote areas like Nangarhar province, were among the worst hit.

Fareed Jabarkhil is a resident Nangarahr, in eastern Afghanistan. 

Where he lives dozens of houses in the village were destroyed, and Fareed had to carry his son to hospital in his arms. 

“It was about 2pm that we felt the earthquake start, we were in the house and managed to escape, but my son was injured because a wall collapsed on top of him,” he says, “A few others in my family were also injured, but not severely like him, I had to rush him to the hospital.”

Twenty-eight year-old Abdul Razeeq also had a lucky escape. He was taken to Nangarhar hospital after he jumped from the second floor of his building. 

“I have a room in Alkoze market, I saw at the time the market was full of people and that I would not be able to get out of the building that way, so I jumped out of the window,” he says, “I crash-landed onto the ground and broke my leg.”

Afghanistan is ill-equipped to respond to natural disasters. The country is at war with the Taliban and the mountainous terrain makes it difficult to mobilize resources quickly.

Afghanistan’s Health Minister Dr. Ferozoden Feroz has called on all hospitals around the country to stay on high alert.

“Most of the mortalities were in Nangarhar, Kuner, Noristan, Badakhshan and Takhar provinces. All hospitals in the country, especially in the areas mentioned are on alert and our rescue team is trying to find if there are people under wreckage to bring them out,” says Feroz. 

The Afghan government has held urgent meetings to coordinate mobilization and rescue efforts and the National Bureau of Emergency and Disasters is supporting those affected, offering assistance to people whose houses were damaged. 

The prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, has also pledged assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan, as have international organizations. 

Afghanistan’s President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani says he is thankful for all the support.

As reports emerge from the country’s most remote regions, the death from the disaster is expected to rise.

 

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