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Over 1,000 People Dead After Earthquake Strikes Afghanistan

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Published: June 22, 2022
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Damaged houses are pictured following an earthquake in Gayan district, Paktika province on June 22, 2022. (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, June 22, at least 1,000 people were killed by an earthquake in the Paktika province in Afghanistan, and the death toll is expected to rise.

According to Taliban officials, this may be the deadliest quake in the country in two decades, bringing another tragedy to the impoverished nation.

Tragic tremors

The 5.9-magnitude quake hit about 30 miles south-west of the city of Khost, a provincial capital located in southeastern Afghanistan. The tremors were strong enough to be felt as far as the Afghan capital of Kabul. However, the area that was hit the worst was the Paktika province, close to the Pakistan border.

The quake struck during the night, when heavy rains continued to disrupt immediate rescue efforts.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, it is reported that at least 1,000 people were killed, while around 1,500 more people were injured. 

According to Shabir Ahmad Osmani, director of information and culture in the Khost province, 40 people were believed to have been killed and another 100 were injured.

Footage taken during the aftermath saw rescue efforts being conducted — with airlifts carrying people away from the disaster zone via helicopters, while others were treated on the spot.

Further footage by the Taliban showed civilians “digging grave after grave”, creating a long slit trench to bury the bodies, according to Mohammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the information and culture department in the Paktika province — the area worst hit by the quake.

Around 2,000 homes were destroyed in the disaster, Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative for Afghanistan for the United Nations (UN), said. 

Because Afghan families are usually large and typically live together, it is feared that many will be displaced, The New York Times reported.

Speaking to The Guardian, resident Karim Nyazai was in the provincial capital when his village was destroyed by the quake. 

“I was away from my family who live in a remote village in the Gyan district. I went there as soon as I could find a car in the early morning,” he said. 

“The entire village is buried,” he added. “Those who could manage to get out before everything fell down were managing to take out the bodies of their loved ones out of the rubble. There were bodies wrapped in blankets everywhere.”

Tragically, 22 of Nyazai’s extended family were among the dead.

“I lost 22 members of my [extended family] including my sister, and three of my brothers. More than 70 people in the village died.”

Another survivor, Arup Khan, was rescued from a fallen guesthouse, retelling the “horrible situation” around him. 

“It was a horrible situation. There were cries everywhere. The children and my family were under the mud.”

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Calling for help

Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesperson for the Taliban, called out to aid agencies to be deployed and help those affected by the quake. 

“We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe,” he said. 

A tribal leader from the Paktika province, Yaqub Manzor, said that survivors and rescuers were working together to rescue the victims of the quake, showing photographs of the devastation and death caused.

In response to the disaster, the UN and the European Union (EU) offered their aid to the victims.

“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas,” the UN office for humanitarian affairs in Afghanistan said on Twitter. 

“The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected,” Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted.

However, after the Taliban’s violent takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, many international aid agencies fled the country, following the U.S. military out of the quagmire. Still, several international agencies, including the UN, continue to provide humanitarian aid.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, sent his condolences to the victims in a statement, promising aid to the Afghan people.

With the death toll, the quake is said to be the deadliest since 2002, when a 6.1-magnitude quake struck northern Afghanistan, inflicting a similar death toll of around 1,000 lives.