New aftershocks hit Afghanistan

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | March 27, 2002

As deadly new aftershocks hit Afghanistan Wednesday morning, faith-based aid groups were trying to get relief supplies to the devastated northern region.

After two powerful earthquakes hit the region Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday morning brought aftershocks so strong the death toll may have climbed dramatically, according to reports from the Afghan defense ministry.

The first quake -- magnitude6.0 -- hit Monday and the second -- magnitude 5.0 -- Tuesday. Both were centered in the Baghlan province.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) and its partners are sending relief supplies -- quilts, tents, food, and water equipment. ACT, a global alliance of faith-based relief and disaster response agencies, dispatched a medical team as well.

Government reports indicate that 2,000 people were killed by the two initial earthquakes. At least 4,000 people were injured and some 20,000 left homeless.

The market town of Nahrin and its surrounding villages were flattened, reported ACT. At least five villages plus Nahrin have lost most of their homes.

ACT member Church World Service (CWS) Pakistan/Afghanistan is sending 7,000 quilts from Quetta in Pakistan to the Nahrin area. Quetta is close to the Afghan border.

With help from CWS partner Shuhada, CWS expects to get the quilts into the hands of earthquake survivors by the end of this week. The quilts were made by Afghan women as part of a CWS-sponsored income generation project.

ACT member Norwegian Church Aid reported that one of its local partners sent a medical team to the earthquake-stricken area.

Another ACT member, Lutheran World Relief (LWR), is assessing needs. LWR reported that, because the earthquakes hit a remote rural area, it is difficult to transport relief goods.

Faith-based groups are working closely with the United Nations.

Northern Afghanistan was burdened by disasters even before current military tensions. The Nahrin region was already reeling under severe drought and food shortages.

Earthquakes add "yet another layer of need to the already critical needs that continue to multiply in Afghanistan," said Marvin Parvez, director of CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan.

Nahrin, home to some 82,000 people, is about 100 miles north of Kabul in the Hindu Kush Mountains. Most people there live in mud-brick homes.

Before the latest earthquakes struck, CWS, ACT, LWR, and many denominational groups were already working with local partners in Afghanistan to offer shelter, food, water, and medical assistance to families displaced by drought and war.

Although earthquakes are common in the Hindu Kush region, the latest quakes were unusually shallow and so were felt over a wide area. The same area shook from a March earthquake of 7.2 magnitude.

A 6.9-magnitude quake there in May 1998 killed more than 5,000 people.

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