Last Monday, October 26th, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake near the Hindu Kush mountain range shook the regions of northeast Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. According to the most recent news by USA Today, the death toll has risen to 385 with at least 2,000 injured. More than 10,000 homes in Pakistan and 7,600 homes in Afghanistan were demolished.
The hardest-hit areas near the epicenter included the areas located 73 km south of Badakhshan, the Swat Valley, Dir, Malakand, and Shangla towns in the mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Badakhshan, one of the most impoverished regions in Afghanistan, is especially vulnerable to natural disasters. The region has often been affected by earthquakes, floods, snowstorms, and even mudslides. With less than 1 million people residing across the huge mountains and valleys, it is challenging for fast and efficient rescue operations to take place.
The Badakhshan Government official, Shah Waliullah Adeeb, reported to TIME news, “Helicopters were needed to reach the most remote villages, many inaccessible by road at the best of times. Now, landslides and falling rocks have blocked the few existing roads. Food and other essentials were ready to go, but getting there is not easy.”
Moreover, there still lingers the high risk for more casualties as Qameruddin Sediqi, an adviser to the public health minister in Afghanistan stated, “We believe the exact numbers are much higher because not all people bring the bodies to the hospitals so there are many that are not being counted. And there are still areas we don’t have access to so we are not aware of the situation there” (TIME News).
There is a short supply of food, blankets, and tents in the Takhar province in Afghanistan, and people are sleeping outside in near-freezing temperatures. At least 12 students were killed by the stampede in the girls’ school as they were all trying to escape in the midst of havoc without adults who could properly guide them through emergency situations.
In Pakistan, the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sent 2,000 tents to the most severely afflicted areas, and is now currently attempting to transport relief supplies through military aircrafts and to repair the impaired communication lines cut by landslides.
Yet these measures appear to be inadequate. It has already been the third night deprived of shelters and food for the survivors in Pakistan and Afghanistan, yet thousands are forced to camp in the crowded 70 tents provided by the village officials in the freezing-zero-temperature without blankets, warm clothes, and proper hygiene. Western charities and NGOs are also hindered by the Taliban presence in Afghanistan.
The shallower the earthquake, the greater potential for a far worse, severe devastation above ground. The recent temblor in Nepal with only 5 miles (8km) below ground or the 2005 Kashmir earthquake with 16.1 miles (26km) deep have already induced more than 80,000 deaths, compared to Monday’s earthquake with 213 kilometers (130 miles) below ground.
Nonetheless, it is evident that the villagers are in desperate need of help after the constant series of natural disasters.
– Sammie Kim (’18)