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Deadliest Earthquake in Afghanistan for Two Decades

By: Olivia Zhang

On Wednesday, June 22, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the southeastern part of Afghanistan, along the border of Pakistan and the Himalayas. About 1,000 people died and about 1,600 more were injured. Humanitarian organizations all over the world are rushing to support and look for survivors from what is the deadliest earthquake that has struck Afghanistan in the past twenty years.

Gulpar Khan, living in the Geyan district, one of the most strongly-hit areas in Pakistan, described a ghastly and horrifying scene. Thunderous, pounding rain mixed with desperate cries for help from dying people scattered in crumbling homes. “It was like a scene from a movie— I could never imagine such a thing in a village,” he said, according to an article by New York Times journalists Christina Goldbaum and Safiullah Padshah.

Another victim of the earthquake, a mother called Hawa, said, “I lost almost everything, my whole world, my whole family, I don’t have any hope for the future. I wish I had lost everything, that we had all died because there’s no one to take care of us, to find money or food for us now.” She was sleeping with her daughter Safia in the Geyan district when the earthquake started. Luckily, she and her daughter survived, but her four other children and 17 relatives all perished.

In Afghanistan, earthquakes are very common. And every year, around 1,300 similar quakes happen on Earth. So why was this earthquake so deadly?

Henry Fountain, a specialist on climate change and natural disasters, says that in the stricken part of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, lots of homes are made out of mud and masonry, materials that break easily when subject to tension, especially in earthquakes.

Also, the quakes struck at night, so people had less time and energy to escape the earthquake than they would have in the daytime when they would have been awake and alert. Also, people would have been in school or in workplaces; these buildings are probably sturdier than their own homes.

However, people can expect frequent earthquakes here; Afghanistan is near the collision of two of the earth’s largest crustal plates, which are constantly pushing up against each other and creating stress. This underground tension has, over thousands, maybe even millions or billions of years, created the Himalayas.

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