Four hundred and forty people are known to have died and thousands more are missing or injured following a massive deep Earthquake in Badakhshan Province in north-eastern Afghanistan on Monday 26 October 2015. The quake was measured as having a Magnitude of 7.5 and occurring at a depth of 712 km by the United States Geological Survey and was felt as far away as Tashkent in Uzbekistan, New Delhi in India and Kathmandu in Nepal, as well as in parts of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang Province, China. The initial event has been followed by a large number of aftershocks, many in excess of Magnitude 4.0.
Earthquake damage Takhar Province, Afghanistan on 27 October 2015. AP.
Despite the Earthquake having happened in northeastern Afghanistan, the majority of the fatalities are thought to have occurred in northern Pakistan, where the event triggered a series of landslides. Damage and casualties far away from the epicenter (point on the ground directly above the point of maximum movement) are common for massive deep Earthquakes, where the energy can be spread over a very wide area before it reaches the surface. On this occasion northern Pakistan is thought to have been particularly vulnerable due to a record-breaking storm in the area the day before the event, which brought 136 mm of rain to the city of Islamabad within 24 hours, more than twice the previous record for any 24 hours in the city, 49.4 mm. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. Fatalities have also been reported in Jammu and Kashmir State, India.
Damage in Mingora in the Swat District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan following the 26 October 2015 Earthquake. Hazrat Bacha/Reuters.
Eastern Afghanistan lies close to the boundary between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which runs through northern Afghanistan. The Indian Plate is moving northward relative to the Eurasian Plate, causing folding and uplift along this boundary, which has led to the formation of the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, the Himalayas and the other mountain ranges of Central Asia., and which makes the nations in this boundary zone prone to Earthquakes.
Plate boundaries and movements beneath southern Pakistan, Iran and the Arabian Sea. University of Southampton.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on Earth and has suffered decades of war. This means that few (if any) buildings in the country are protected against the effects of Earthquakes, with many buildings in the area made of mud brick, a building material considered particularly hazardous during quakes, as the bricks have a tendency to liquify, trapping and suffocating people inside. The poor state of the transport network within the country and low numbers of medical staff mean that people injured in quakes are more likely to die as a result of their injuries than in more developed nations, adding to the death toll during such events.
The approximate location of the 26 October 2015 Badakshan Earthquake.Google Maps.
Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. The international non-profit organization Earthquake Report is interested in hearing from people who may have felt this event; if you felt this quake then you can report it to Earthquake Report here.
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