Earthquake hits Afghanistan

October 26, 2015
Written by Masha Hamilton
Photo by Peter Wilson

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake has struck Afghanistan. Concern is already on the ground and preparing its emergency response.

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An escape to safety turned into a fatal stampede during Monday’s earthquake, killing 11 students at a girls’ high school in northern Afghanistan, says Concern’s country director for Afghanistan.

The girls were evacuating the Bibi Hajira school in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar Province, when the stampede broke out in the narrow stairway that led to the exit, Country Director Janardhan Rao said.

Another 36 were injured, Rao said. The school building itself was not damaged. Concern’s emergency response took us to the school as well as the hospital treating the injured as we assessed overall damage.

Rao himself was in Concern’s Kabul office when, not long after lunch, the floor began to shudder.

“It was like you were on a high sea in a small boat,” Rao said.

The team ran outside the office and watched buildings, electrical cables and trees shake for about two minutes. A flock of birds scattered from the nearby trees in a fright. For about an hour, phones were not working.

The quake was centered in the Hindu Kush mountain range about 160 miles northeast of Kabul, and registered a preliminary magnitude of 7.5.

A man cradles a child caught up in the destruction brought on by a 7.5-magnitude quake

A man cradles a child caught up in the destruction brought on by a 7.5-magnitude quake, centered deep beneath the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan’s sparsely populated Badakhshan province. Keshaktan village, Farkhar. Photo: Aref Salangi

Concern is conducting assessments in several northern districts, particularly worried about the collapse of mud houses. The worst of the quake, Rao says, appears to have hit in remote areas.

“We must move extremely quickly to help devastated families before winter hits,” Fay said.

In Farkhar District of Takhar Province, Concern found 12 houses completely destroyed and 15 partially damaged. In neighboring Worsaj District, where Concern will continue its assessment Tuesday with the morning light, reports indicated that four homes were destroyed and one woman killed. Concern is also doing assessments of the damage in Badakhshan Province.

“The quake caused massive damage, much of it in remote, hard-to-reach locations. Concern has been on the ground in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. We went to work immediately. But we must move extremely quickly to help devastated families before winter hits,” said Concern US President Aine Fay.

Concern is also assessing the damage in neighboring Pakistan, where we have been working since 2001, and where fatalities were reported in the north and northeast.

Concern has been in Afghanistan since 1998, when we began our work with a focus on infrastructure repair and emergency relief in response to a major earthquake in the northeast.

We work primarily in the northeast region of Afghanistan. We currently run various projects in 10 districts of Takhar and Badakshan provinces as well as in the capital of Kabul. The key focus of these projects is to ensure people are able to support themselves and their families, to empower women and to improve access to water.

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