Thousands Feared Dead in Afghanistan Earthquakes

Oct 9, 2023

This story was last updated: October 8 @ 5:00 PM EDT.

Thousands are feared dead after an earthquake and three aftershocks, as or nearly as intense as the initial quake, struck Saturday within 25 miles of one of Afghanistan's largest cities. The quakes rattled the country's northwest region. They were the nation's worst in two decades.

The Taliban said Sunday the earthquakes have killed more than 2,000. They've also injured or displaced thousands more. The first measured at magnitude 6.3. It struck 25 miles northwest of Herat. This city has a population of nearly 600,000. 

“Oh, my God. Oh, God, please help me — what should I do?” one survivor in the village of Wardakha cried in a viral video. It showed him standing atop the rubble of his wrecked home. The man said he's his family's sole survivor. All 14, including his 5-day-old son, died in the temblors.

Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest nations. It was already plagued by a humanitarian crisis before the quakes struck. Decades of conflict have left most of the people in this mountainous Central Asian country in severe poverty. Many are on the brink of starvation.

Making matters worse, the Taliban’s harsh theocratic rule returned in 2021. It has prompted many aid groups to pull out of the country. This is largely because of the ruling force’s archaic mistreatment of women. 

So far, the government’s response to the catastrophe appears largely improvised. Responders say this. The Taliban are asking local businesses to provide food and equipment. Meanwhile, local residents are literally taking matters into their own hands. They're digging without equipment or gloves through rubble to find survivors.

Arshad Malik is Afghanistan's director for Save the Children. Malik said on the organization’s website: “This is a crisis on top of a crisis."

Photo from Reuters.

Reflect: What do you think are some ways we can show empathy and support for people who are facing challenging situations, such as a natural disaster?

The author’s purpose for writing this story is to _______. (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. express personal feelings and emotions related to earthquakes
b. educate and inform readers by presenting factual information about a catastrophic event
c. persuade readers to adopt a specific viewpoint on an issue
d. entertain and amuse readers with an engaging story
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