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Hasht-E Subh, October 9, 2023

Nature’s Wrath and The Taliban Mismanagement: Some Victims Still Trapped Under Rubble

Taliban told women they had no right to leave their homes without a male escort

Earthquake killed over 2000 people in Herat.

The Earthquake in Herat province has claimed the lives of more than two thousand people and injured thousands more. As a result of this earthquake, approximately 13 villages have been destroyed, and hundreds are still trapped under the rubble. Video footage from the earthquake-stricken areas has circulated widely on social media, revealing that specialized search and rescue teams have been notably absent for over 24 hours from the incident. Published videos from the earthquake zones indicate that survivors lack even basic tools for rescuing those trapped. Shortages of medical facilities for the wounded, the absence of specialized rescue teams, and delayed cooperation from relief organizations have been identified as fundamental challenges in managing the earthquake disaster in Herat province.

On the other hand, this earthquake has witnessed unity and empathy from various segments of the citizens of Afghanistan. Some provinces have dispatched initial aid shipments to Herat, while others have declared their support.

Mullah Janan Saeiq, the spokesperson for the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) under the control of the Taliban, initially stated that the devastating earthquake in Herat had claimed the lives of 2,053 people and left 9,240 others injured. However, later, in a statement, the figures were revised, and an apology was issued to the public. According to the statement from this authority, the number of casualties has been corrected based on the number of destroyed villages due to the earthquake. He added that this count pertains to the villages of “Naib Rafi, Kernal, Wardakha, Panjab, Sarboland, Kashkak, Kajkal, Siah-Ab, Aghzalak, Butan, Gharmushk, Naw Abad, Cheshma-e Ghori, and Nayak,” where 1,320 homes have been destroyed, and lives have been lost.

However, a reliable source from Herat Regional Hospital informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that 150 people have been confirmed dead, and approximately 600 have been transferred to this hospital with injuries. The source does not consider these figures definitive and emphasizes that due to a lack of space and facilities, victims and the wounded have been transferred to other government and private health centers, leaving room for the possibility of an increase in the number of victims from the earthquake.

Another source from a non-governmental organization told the Hasht-e Subh Daily that around 20 villages have been destroyed, and over two thousand people have been killed or injured. This source also acknowledges that the numbers are subject to change, stating, “I visited Naib Rafi village, and the impact was severe. Except for their concrete school, all the houses were demolished.”

One of the individuals involved in distributing aid to the affected area says that the casualty figures are, in fact, contradictory, and no one can confirm their accuracy. He states, “It’s likely that 1,500 people have lost their lives. We went to Naib Rafi village, and locals told us that there used to be 400 houses in the village, all of which are now completely destroyed. About 600 people, mostly women and children, lost their lives in this village.” The source emphasizes that out of the 13 villages that were destroyed, five are completely wiped out, with no signs of life remaining.

However, video footage and images depicting the tragic scenes from this disaster have been widely shared on various media and social platforms. These visuals reveal that, even after 24 hours, there is a notable absence of rescue teams, and survivors are making desperate efforts to retrieve victims using rudimentary tools and manually clearing debris.

Amidst the numerous images and videos, a particular video clip stands out, portraying a man in profound grief due to the loss of his loved ones. In the video, he reveals that 14 members of his family remain trapped beneath the debris, leaving him with a sense of helplessness. This video has garnered criticism on social media, with users pointing fingers at the Taliban for what they perceive as shortcomings in their rescue and disaster management efforts. Nevertheless, the Taliban have responded by forming a commission to aid the affected individuals and allocating 100 million Afghanis in assistance to the victims.

Another video that has attracted considerable attention captures the moment a child is rescued from beneath the soil. In the video, relatives of the child can be seen using their hands to clear away the dirt from around the child.

One video shared by a user depicts a devastated village. The video’s recorder refers to this village as “Siah-Ab” in the Zinda Jan district, where it is evident that the entire village has been leveled to the ground.

On the other hand, sources report that on the first day of the earthquake, the Taliban prevented women who had left their homes for safety from venturing outside. These sources alleged that the Taliban told women they had no right to leave their homes without a male escort. Additionally, the Taliban’s office in Herat had arranged transportation for male journalists to go to the disaster site on the previous day but did not provide the same facilities for female journalists.

Simultaneously, local sources say that some women who wanted to go to the disaster site to assist injured women were barred by the Taliban. According to sources, women were not allowed to distribute clothing and essential supplies to the women rescued from under the debris.

Sources further added, “For the past two days, women with white scarves have been trying to obtain permission to open two or three public baths for women. The idea was that when women are rescued from under the rubble and dirt if they are unharmed, they could use these baths for hygiene and cleanliness. But, as of today, the Taliban have not granted permission.”

However, some women have complained about the absence of female morticians. They have stated that men have been washed and shrouded at the disaster site, but due to the lack of female morticians, women have not been washed or shrouded. The Taliban have not officially commented on this matter.

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale has struck Herat province at a time when environmental experts say Afghanistan is one of the vulnerable regions in terms of natural disasters, especially earthquakes. According to them, Afghanistan has three earthquake fault lines, making earthquake seismology knowledge and preventive measures crucial.

Sayed Abdul Basit Rahmani, an environmental expert, states that Afghanistan is highly vulnerable to climatic events and has active seismic areas, including parts of northeastern and southeastern Afghanistan. He explains that several earthquakes occur every week in the Hindu Kush mountain range.

Mr. Rahmani attributes the increase in casualties and earthquake damage in Herat to the lack of flexibility and failure to adhere to construction standards. He emphasizes that the destroyed houses in Herat were constructed with basic local tools and were not compatible with engineering principles.

This environmental expert adds that earthquakes can be geographically identified by geological institutions. According to him, geological uplifts and tectonic activities are examined, but earthquakes are not predictable in terms of timing. He still anticipates the possibility of another significant earthquake in the future.

Mr. Rahmani considers the absence of advanced and specialized search and rescue teams as one of the factors contributing to the increased casualties. He states that advanced resources for rescue are not available, and these are essential issues for the rescue of earthquake victims and survivors.

This earthquake has been accompanied by the solidarity of citizens and residents of other provinces. Athletes, politicians, and international organizations have expressed their support. The very first shipment of non-food aid was sent from Ghor province to Herat. These aids include 215 tents, 240 blankets, 47 cooking sets, 89 water containers, and some essential items.

Some residents of Badghis, Khost, Ghazni, Oruzgan, and Kandahar provinces have launched campaigns to collect aid for the earthquake victims in Herat resulting from the recent seismic activities. The process of aid collection both inside and outside Afghanistan continues. Additionally, some investors and merchants have pledged to assist the affected.

The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), the National Resistance Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan, various political parties, political figures, and former government leaders have issued statements expressing solidarity with the earthquake victims. They have called upon humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to those affected.

However, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, has called for assistance to the earthquake victims in Herat. In a tweet, he wrote: “In the ruins left by the earthquake, a teenager who has lost his entire family says, ‘I am alone!’ Yes, Afghanistan, your homeland, and your people are one and alone. We must rely on our own strength and liberate and prosper our homeland. There is no other way.”

In addition to domestic efforts and public aid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other UN agencies have stated that they are assessing the earthquake damages in Herat. The UNHCR mentioned in a tweet: “While Herat province in Afghanistan grapples with a devastating earthquake, the UNHCR, alongside institutions and other UN agencies, is on the ground assessing the damages and responding to immediate needs.”

This comes after the United Nations had previously announced that relevant UN entities had sent medical assistance and emergency supplies to the area to provide essential services to the affected.

Condolences From Select Embassies and Foreign Nations for Herat Province Earthquake Victims.

Takashi Okada, the Japanese Ambassador to Kabul, stated in a message that he is monitoring the situation. In his message, he mentioned that Japan has always stood by the people of Afghanistan. The Iranian Embassy in Kabul has also expressed solidarity with the affected and called for the activation of a “regional contact committee” to assist the earthquake victims in Herat. Countries including Pakistan, Turkey, Tajikistan, and several others have also expressed sympathy for the earthquake victims in the province of Herat.

It is worth noting that the residents of Herat have spent the second consecutive night outdoors. Yesterday, some users in Herat claimed that a relatively mild earthquake had shaken the province yet again.

It’s worth mentioning that Afghanistan has experienced more than six earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 6.5 on the Richter scale from the year 2000 until now. In 2002, Nahrin District in Baghlan Province experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 Richter. The government at the time reported the death toll from that earthquake as 1,100 people.

Following that, the second-largest earthquake occurred on Monday, October 26, 2015. This earthquake had a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale. The U.S. Geological Survey reported its epicenter at a depth of 196 kilometers near Jurm District in Badakhshan Province. The former government reported the death toll from that event as over 100 people and around 600 injured.

The third earthquake, causing substantial human and financial losses, struck last year in Spera District, as well as in Gyan and Bermel districts of Paktika Province. The Taliban reported 1,000 casualties and over 1,500 injuries due to this earthquake.

Victims of the earthquake in Herat - Afghanistan

Category: Taliban/ISIS/Terrorism, Women, Children, Poverty - Views: 1052