While the world remains preoccupied with turbulent political events both east and west, a devastating earthquake of 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale struck the Afghan region of Herat. This catastrophe led to the disappearance of entire villages, highlighting the country’s severe resource constraints. The presence of the Taliban government, engrossed in its internal affairs, and their inability to provide appropriate humanitarian aid during natural disasters further exacerbates the situation.
On the morning of October 7th, Afghan citizens awoke to a new humanitarian disaster. A powerful earthquake, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, struck the Herat region. Preliminary estimates suggest that the number of casualties exceeded two thousand dead and hundreds of injured. The United States Geological Survey confirmed the earthquake’s epicenter, situated approximately 30 kilometers north of Herat city.
The American Seismological Center reported another earthquake of the same magnitude in the region on the following Wednesday, raising the death toll to 2,025. The United Nations disclosed on October 12th that over 90% of the earthquake’s victims were women and children.
UNICEF in Herat further emphasized that women and children constituted the majority of casualties in the initial earthquake, accompanied by another 6.4 magnitude earthquake, resulting in the engulfing of entire villages and the collapse of adobe homes. UNICEF noted that these earthquakes caused the destruction of numerous schools, clinics, and rural facilities.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society announced the destruction of 12 villages in Herat province, including Zenda Jan and Goryan. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban government’s spokesperson, stated that the earthquake was followed by eight powerful aftershocks, causing the complete destruction of 1,320 houses.
The World Health Organization reported the destruction of over 600 houses, with some partially damaged, in at least 12 villages near the Iranian border in Herat province. In total, 4,200 individuals were affected in one way or another by the earthquake.
Afghanistan is continually subjected to intermittent earthquakes due to its location within the seismic belt. While the spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Disasters, Molavi Janan Sayeq, announced ongoing rescue and relief efforts to find survivors beneath the rubble, supply the necessary tents for the affected, and attempt to deliver medical aid, food, and drinking water, it has surpassed the capabilities of the interim government. Therefore, international humanitarian organizations must be called upon for assistance.
Mohammad Abdul Razzaq, an expert in Asian affairs, stated in an exclusive interview with “Al Marja” that Afghanistan has suffered from long-standing economic problems that have led to widespread poverty. Most villages rely primarily on primitive building materials, such as adobe, which cannot withstand natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and heavy rainfall. This increases the number of victims in such events.
He pointed out that the Taliban movement has inherited this longstanding problem and is indeed powerless in the face of it. They have previously issued appeals to humanitarian organizations during similar events, including the first earthquake that struck the country after they seized power. At that time, they acknowledged their helplessness in the face of the disaster.
Moreover, the current situation with the Taliban is deteriorating. Their interactions with international organizations and their reluctance to cooperate lead to numerous problems, hindering these organizations from functioning effectively in such circumstances, exacerbating the suffering of the Afghan people.
Expanding the discussion
The earthquake in Herat sheds light on the ongoing challenges faced by Afghanistan and its people. With the Taliban in power, the country’s difficulties have become even more pronounced. The seismic vulnerability of the region is just one of the many issues that Afghanistan must contend with.
It’s crucial to understand that the vulnerability to earthquakes in Afghanistan is not a recent development. The country lies on the boundary of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, making it highly susceptible to seismic activity. Over the years, Afghanistan has experienced several devastating earthquakes, and its infrastructure is ill-prepared to withstand such natural disasters.
The situation becomes even more dire when we consider the state of the country’s buildings and homes. Many of the structures are constructed with substandard materials, making them particularly susceptible to damage during earthquakes. The lack of proper construction standards and building codes only exacerbates the problem.
One of the significant challenges in addressing this issue is the current political climate. The Taliban government’s reluctance to collaborate with international organizations and its strained relationships with foreign governments hinder the efforts to provide timely and effective relief. This not only affects the earthquake response but also exacerbates the overall humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Efforts to mitigate the impact of earthquakes in Afghanistan require a multi-pronged approach. Firstly, there is a need for improved building standards and regulations to ensure that structures are earthquake-resistant. This includes not only new construction but also the retrofitting of existing buildings to meet safety standards.
Secondly, the international community must play a more significant role in disaster response and relief efforts. The earthquake in Herat serves as a stark reminder of the importance of humanitarian aid and support, especially in conflict-affected regions.
Moreover, Afghanistan needs to invest in disaster preparedness and response mechanisms. This includes training emergency responders, establishing early warning systems, and stockpiling essential relief supplies.
The earthquake in Herat highlights the urgency of addressing the country’s vulnerabilities to seismic activity. It also underscores the need for a coordinated international response, even in challenging political contexts. The Afghan people deserve assistance and relief, and it is incumbent upon the global community to ensure that they receive the help they need during these difficult times.