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From Afghanistan To Bhuj, Earthquakes That Left Behind Trails Of Horror

Disaster has a long history. And we have a short future to understand what is perhaps making it a recurring incident. Against this backdrop, Outlook’s issue, 'Deliver Us From Greed', on March 1, 2023, looked at how climate change, poor planning and mindless construction leads to catastrophic ‘natural’ disasters which are marked by greed and arrogance.

Powerful earthquakes killed at least 2,000 people in western Afghanistan.
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A series of powerful earthquakes struck western Afghanistan, with a death toll now tragically standing at 2,000, making it one of the deadliest earthquakes in two decades. The initial magnitude-6.3 quake, followed by aftershocks, caused widespread devastation, particularly in Herat province.

Local authorities initially estimated 100 deaths and 500 injuries, while the United Nations cited 320 fatalities but noted that the figure was still under verification. Additionally, 465 houses were destroyed, and 135 were damaged. Concerns lingered that the casualty count could rise as search and rescue operations continued, with more people possibly trapped under debris.

The epicenter was located about 40 kilometers northwest of Herat city, and strong aftershocks, including magnitudes 6.3, 5.9, and 5.5, rattled the region, prompting residents in Herat city to evacuate their homes due to fear of further tremors.

Disaster has a long history. And we have a short future to understand what is perhaps making it a recurring incident. Against this backdrop, Outlook’s issue, 'Deliver Us From Greed’, on March 1, 2023, looked at how climate change, poor planning and mindless construction leads to catastrophic ‘natural’ disasters which are marked by greed and arrogance.

While we once more revisit the painful memories of disasters, we also look at the devastating earthquakes in history that have forced human being scaling heights to kneel down:

Morocco earthquake

Morocco was struck by a devastating earthquake on September 8, leaving a lasting mark on the nation's history. This natural disaster caused widespread destruction and a significant loss of life in the High Atlas Mountain range, situated around 70 kilometers to the southwest of Marrakesh.

With a magnitude of 6.8, the earthquake has claimed the lives of over 2,900 people and left thousands more injured.

Afghanistan Earthquake

On June 22, 2022, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked the southeastern part of Afghanistan. The seismic event has resulted in a devastating toll, with over 1,000 casualties reported, and approximately 1,500 individuals sustaining injuries. Particularly distressing is the fact that in certain areas of the hardest-hit provinces, namely Khost and Paktika, nearly 80 percent of residences have suffered damage.

Turkey-Syria earthquake

The combined death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on February 6 rose to nearly 50,000. Meanwhile, officials informed that at least 164,000 buildings either collapsed or are so damaged that they need to be demolished. The local civil defence in northwestern Syria, known locally as The White Helmets, said that thousands of children and tens of thousands of families have taken shelter in cars and tents “fearing they would face a repeat of the earthquake.” The earthquake left thousands of aftershocks that came as a double blow to Syrian refugees in Turkey, who are having to re-live the trauma of war in their homeland. 

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Kirikhan: Women prepare food at a makeshift tent camp by the roadside. Photo credit: Prashant Panjiar 

Ecuador earthquake 

On Saturday, a strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru, killing at least 14 people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 that was centred just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador's second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, while 13 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 126 people were injured. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters the earthquake had "without a doubt generated alarm in the population." 

Haiti earthquake

In 2010, a powerful earthquake of 7 magnitude on the Richter scale left nearly 3,16,000 people dead. Some reports put the death toll at 2,20,000. The tremors of the earthquake were even felt in neighbouring countries including Cuba and Venezuela. The natural calamity also left a deep scar on the country’s people who were left displaced after the tragedy.

Indonesia earthquake

In 2004, a powerful earthquake of 9.1 magnitude struck Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The powerful shockwaves created ripples not only in Indonesia, but other countries including Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The calamity left nearly 2,27,899 people dead. The earthquake in the Indian Ocean also resulted in devastating tsunamis ranging from 15-30 metres in height. 

Kashmir Earthquake

On October 8, 2005, a devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Kashmir, with its epicenter in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. The tremors also affected neighboring countries: India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China, resulting in a significant loss of life and displacement. Around 86,000 people lost their lives, 69,000 were injured, and approximately 2.8 million were displaced. The region's vulnerable location, situated between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, contributed to the earthquake's severity. Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, bore the brunt of the destruction, accounting for nearly 70 percent of casualties. This tragic event underscores the need for preparedness and international cooperation in the face of natural disasters.

China earthquake 

In 2008, an earthquake of 7.9 magnitude hit China’s Sichuan province. The calamity left 87,000 people dead and over 3,70,000 people injured.

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Parents wait to hear if their child, buried in a school room, is found during the earthquake on May 13, 2008 in Dujiangyan, in southwest China Sichuan province. Photo credit: Prashant Panjiar

Japan earthquake

On March 11, 2011, Japan was shaken by a historic earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded in the country's history. This seismic event originated beneath the North Pacific, approximately 130 kilometers (81 miles) to the east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region, situated in the northern part of Honshu Island.

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This catastrophic earthquake triggered a tsunami, or "harbor wave" as it is known in Japanese. Tsunamis are the result of significant water displacement, typically caused by underwater tectonic activities like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Tohoku tsunami, arising from this powerful seismic activity, left an indelible mark on Japan's history and the global understanding of the devastating impact of such natural disasters.

Nepal earthquake

In 2015, a powerful earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit Nepal. The disaster left over 8,000 people dead and left thousands of people homeless. It was the worst natural disaster reported in Nepal since 1934.

Afghanistan earthquake

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In 1998, an earthquake of 6.6 magnitude struck Afghanistan. There were two earthquakes that struck the country that year. The first quake in February in the province of Takhar killed around 2,300 people (some estimate the casualties at 4,000). The second quake of 6.6 magnitude struck the same region in May, killing around 4,700 people. 

Japan earthquake

In 1923, a powerful earthquake of 7.9 magnitude hit Japan. The disaster left over 1,42,000 people dead. It also resulted in the collapse of over half of the brick buildings at the time. The quake also triggered tsunamis with a height of up to 12m. The earthquake was followed by fires and tornados. 

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Chile earthquake

In 1960, Chile was hit by a powerful earthquake of 9.5 magnitude. The disaster lasted for about 10 minutes and killed around 1,000-6,000 people. 

1976 China earthquake

In 1976, China was hit by a powerful earthquake of 7.5 magnitude. The earthquake struck country’s Tangshan region killing over 2,42,000 people. There are a few more deadly earthquakes recorded in ancient history:

(with agency inputs)

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