February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake

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February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake
February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake is located in Afghanistan
February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake
UTC time1998-02-04 14:33:23
ISC event1075205
Local dateFebruary 4, 1998 (1998-02-04)
Local time19:03:23
Magnitude5.9 Mw[1]
Depth30 km (19 mi) [1]
Epicenter37°10′N 70°08′E / 37.17°N 70.14°E / 37.17; 70.14Coordinates: 37°10′N 70°08′E / 37.17°N 70.14°E / 37.17; 70.14[1]
Areas affectedTakhar Province, Afghanistan
Total damageExtreme [3]
Max. intensityVII (Very strong)[4]
Casualties2,323–4,000 dead[2][5]
818 injured[2]

The February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake occurred at 19:03 local time near the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. The strike-slip shock had a moment magnitude of 5.9 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VII (Very strong). With several thousand dead and hundreds injured, the event's effects were considered extreme. It was felt at Tashkent and Dushanbe,[4] and aftershocks continued for the next seven days.


Afghanistan is situated on a major plate boundary.[6] The location of the country is on the boundary where two tectonic plates, the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate, meet.[7] To the south of Afghanistan, the Indian Plate moves northwards and to the north the Eurasian Plate moves south-eastwards.[6] The collision resulting from the movement of the plates has been under way for 50 million years.[6] Due to this, Afghanistan is vulnerable to earthquakes.[6] Both the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate consists of continental crust, which can neither sink nor be destroyed.[7] As a result, the rocks between the two plates are forced upwards to form mountains.[7] The constant movement of the Iranian Plate results in an increase in pressure.[7] The earthquake on February 4, 1998 was caused by this increase in pressure.[7]

Casualties and damage[edit]

A spokesman for the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, which controlled certain area, told the Afghan Islamic Press that they removed more than 3,500 bodies.[5] According to the estimates by the Taliban government in Kabul, which ruled the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan at that time, 3,230 people died in the earthquake.[5] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) later put the death toll at 4,000.[5] The anti-Taliban Afghan Embassy in Dushanbe asserted that approximately 15,000 people became homeless[5][8] and dozens of villages were destroyed.[5] Nearly 15,000 houses were destroyed primarily due to the landslides.[6] Approximately 818 people were injured and 6,725 livestock were killed.[4]

Relief efforts[edit]

The Takhar Province was a remote area[7][5] and road transport and telecommunication was poor.[7] So it took three days for the news to reach Kabul.[7] On February 7, reports began to reach the capital city.[7] But relief work was hampered and delayed because of bad weather like fog, low cloud and snowfalls, blocked mountain tracks (due to snowfall and landslide) and the civil war.[7][8] Reports indicated that survivors were living without shelter in subzero temperature and many were starving.[7] Several villagers were making their way down the mountain tracks along with their herds of goats.[7]

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement sent a team from Dushanbe to the affected region for relief efforts.[5] The first international relief team reached the affected area on February 7[5] and the first United Nations (UN) team arrived there on February 10.[9] A convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reached the site on February 14 with 4,800 blankets, 800 quilts, 10 rolls of plastic sheeting and approximately 200 tents.[9] Eleven days after the event, on February 16, helicopters were able to drop supplies to three isolated villages.[7] The European Union (EU) offered £1.3m of relief aid including blankets, medical equipment, water and tents.[5] The Taliban ruled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan offered 100 tonnes each of rice and wheat, and approximately £40,000 to the affected region.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ISC (2016), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue (1900–2012), Version 3.0, International Seismological Centre
  2. ^ a b c USGS (September 4, 2009), PAGER-CAT Earthquake Catalog, Version 2008_06.1, United States Geological Survey
  3. ^ National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS) (1972), Significant Earthquake Database (Data Set), National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K
  4. ^ a b c USGS. "M5.9 – Hindu Kush region, Afghanistan". United States Geological Survey.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 1998: 4,000 feared dead in Afghan earthquake BBC News
  6. ^ a b c d e Peter Webber; Neil Punnett (1999). Physical Geography and People. Nelson Thornes. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7487-4303-2.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Neil Punnett; Alison Rae; David Wood; Peter Richardson; John Edwards (2003). The New Wider World. Nelson Thornes. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-7487-7376-3.
  8. ^ a b Ahmed Rashid (2002). Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia. I.B.Tauris. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-86064-830-4.
  9. ^ a b Afghanistan – Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 7 ReliefWeb

External links[edit]

ReliefWeb's main page for this event.