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Afghanistan’s Deadliest Earthquake in Two Decades Leaves Over 1,000 Dead

By: William Liao

On a steep mountain road in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, vehicles of every kind carried aid to the earthquake-afflicted district of Geyan. Big trucks loaded with sacks of flour, rice, and blankets rumbled by, while smaller cars from local charities headed in the same direction with piles of bread in their trunks against the backdrop of rugged mountains dotted with villages of mud-brick homes.

In one of these villages, Azor Kalai, one could see the destruction wrought by the earthquake a week earlier. Among the partially collapsed mud-brick homes were tents put up by residents as a temporary reprieve from the harsh weather.

As Padshah Gul, a resident of the village, stood outside his destroyed home, he recounted how the earthquake occurred. While he was sleeping with his brother outside the family home, they had heard the low rumble of crashing boulders from the nearby mountains, followed by fifteen minutes of shaking. When the earth stopped shaking, he had gone into the wreckage of his home, only to find that two members of his family had died. “We didn’t expect they would survive,” he said, but after hours of digging, they rescued their remaining family members from the rubble.

“It was like a bomb exploding,” he said of the earthquake.

The Afghan people have had plenty of experience with death and destruction. Just last summer, the Taliban, an Islamic terrorist movement, took control of the country after U.S. troops withdrew from Kabul, the capital, ending nearly two decades of war in the country. Since then, Afghanistan has been mired in a severe economic crisis, posing a significant challenge to the new government as the United States refuses to send aid to the country.

The earthquake measured a 5.9 on the Richter scale. Although earthquakes of this magnitude occur regularly, few caused as much destruction as the earthquake that hit Afghanistan last week, which Afghan officials estimate killed over 1,000 people.

The earthquake was quite shallow, which increased its power. In addition, the mud-brick homes of the area were no match for the powerful shaking and collapsed in the middle of the night, causing many people to be buried underneath the rubble of their own homes, in their sleep.

“We have to stay here, winter or spring,” said Mr. Gul, gesturing to the makeshift tent outside his home.

But still, he said he felt lucky to be alive.

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