IOM Responds to Massive Earthquake in Afghanistan, Pakistan
IOM is responding to a massive earthquake that struck the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, as thousands of vulnerable local residents prepare to spend a second night sleeping outside in near freezing temperatures.
The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was centered in Jurm district of northeastern Afghanistan’s Badakhshan’s province, and was felt across the region. Early reports suggest the death toll is approaching 300, with up to 2,000 injured, but little information has emerged yet from many remote areas.
Initial reports indicate damaged homes and potential casualties across northern, central and eastern Afghanistan, with Badakhshan province the most affected. IOM has an office in Badakhshan’s capital Faizabad, which was slightly damaged during the earthquake. All IOM staff have been reported safe.
Significant damage has also been reported in Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Takhar, Baghlan and Nangarhar provinces.
“Just seven days ago I was in Swaki village in Kunar province, speaking with families who had benefited from an IOM permanent shelter program,” said IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission Richard Danziger. “We’ve learned that over 30 percent of that village was destroyed in the earthquake. The impact of this tragedy is just beginning to be realized across the country.”
Monday evening, IOM staff joined officials from the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) on an assessment mission to Badakhshan’s Kishim district to verify reports of damage.
“Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province, where access is often a challenge,” said IOM Humanitarian Assistance Program Manager Gul Mohammed Ahmadi. “It may take some time before a full picture of the damage emerges.”
The Afghan government estimates that at least 1,200 homes have been damaged or destroyed in eight of Badakhshan’s 29 districts. Supported by funding from USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Government of Japan, IOM has been working in partnership with ANDMA since 2008 to assist natural disaster-affected communities and reduce the risk of disasters across the country.
Affected districts in Pakistan, where most of the first causality and eyewitness reports have emerged, include Peshawar, Shangla, Dir, Besham, Chitral, Swat, Charsada, Mardan, Swabi, Hangu, Mansehra, Buner, Bajaur Agency and Diamer.
IOM Pakistan has emergency shelter, non-food relief items (NFIs) and financial resources pre-programmed for an initial response, subject to the needs of the affected population. The government has already requested winterized NFI kits for 500 families in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, and field teams are travelling to further assess needs in that area.
“IOM Pakistan already has a response in Chitral with partners and this has enabled us to rapidly begin gathering information to support a coordinated response,” said IOM Pakistan Chief of Mission Davide Terzi.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority reports helicopters were sent to assess damage in some of the worst affected areas on Monday. Complicating relief efforts, it is believed that along with earthquake-affected communities, thousands of tourists may be stranded by weekend landslides in northern Pakistan.
IOM Pakistan, through its DFID-funded Multi Year Humanitarian Programme (MYHP) on natural disaster preparedness, response and recovery, is already responding to the 2015 monsoon floods, and has convened a meeting today of consortium members to discuss the response.
Elsewhere in both the countries, coordination with government and humanitarian partners is ongoing in order to assess damage and ensure that assistance is delivered rapidly and effectively where it is most needed.
Historically, both Pakistan and Afghanistan are hazard-prone. In October 2005, a 7.6 Magnitude quake killed more than 80,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and divided Kashmir. Earthquakes, floods and avalanches are a frequent occurrence in sparsely-populated Badakhshan. In May 2014, a landslide in Badakhshan’s Argo district killed dozens of people and destroyed hundreds of homes.