27 October 2015, The Tablet

Catholic relief workers to assess Afghan quake damage

by Sean Smith , UCA News

Two emergency teams from the Catholic charity Caritas are on their way to remote areas hit by an earthquake in north-eastern Pakistan.

More than 360 people are known to have died, most of them in Pakistan, and at least 2,000 were injured after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the Hindu Kush region, 76km (45 miles) south of Faizabad yesterday morning.

The final casualty figures are expected to be much higher as relief workers have been unable so far to assess the damage in the remote region of Afghanistan that forms the epicentre of the earthquake.

Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi expressed his concern for the affected families and said that the church's social action arm would step in with support.

"I have encouraged the Caritas team to play a significant role in helping the victims," he told ucanews.com.



Of the 115 Afghans already thought to be among the dead were 12 schoolgirls who were killed in a crush as they tried to leave their classes in Taluqan, Takhar province.

The emergency teams that have left to begin initial assessments in quake-hit areas, including Peshawar and Islamabad, are expecting to find more devastation.

"We are reviewing what we can do to aid the affected with respect to resources and capacity," Amjad Gulzar, Caritas Pakistan's executive director, told ucanews.com. "Our findings will help in making the response. A base camp may be established in earthquake-affected areas to coordinate and update information on a daily basis."

Arbab Waqas, an official with the provincial arm of the disaster agency, told ucanews.com that the death toll will likely rise, as some areas had been hit by landslides and flash floods were expected after Pakistan authorities reported that two glaciers had “cracked”.

"We have reports of deaths in some inaccessible areas of Shangla and Swat districts, but there is no official confirmation yet," he said. "We have set up emergency control rooms in every district to carry out relief efforts."

Afghan villagers carry coffins during a funeral ceremony after the earthquake on MondayAfghan villagers carry coffins during a funeral ceremony after the earthquake on Monday - relief workers are still travelling to the region (PA)


Father Arshad Naeer, parish priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Kohat, south of Peshawar, said he was in his parish house when the first tremor hit.

"The whole room was jolting. I slowly walked out as my head started spinning," he told ucanews.com.

The US Geological Survey reported that although the earthquake was close to the magnitude of the Nepal earthquake last year which killed more than 9,000 people and devastated the region it started at a much deeper level so it has a lesser effect at ground level.

A series of aftershocks - all measuring 4.0 or higher - had struck west of the original quake, according to the US Geological Survey.



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