February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake

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February 4, 1998 Afghanistan earthquake
February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake is located in Afghanistan
February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake
Date February 4, 1998 (1998-02-04)
Magnitude 5.9 Mw [1]
Depth 33 kilometres (21 mi)
Epicenter 37°06′N 70°06′E / 37.1°N 70.1°E / 37.1; 70.1 [1]
Areas affected Afghanistan
Total damage 8,094 houses destroyed
Casualties 2,323 dead [1]
818 injured

The February 4, 1998 Afghanistan earthquake occurred in northern Afghanistan in the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border region.[2][3] The epicenter of the earthquake was located at Rostaq in the Takhar Province near Afghan-Tajikistan border.[3] The magnitude of the quake was 5.9 on the moment magnitude scale.[1] Aftershocks continued for the next seven days.[3] The earthquake was also felt at Tashkent and Dushanbe.[2]


Afghanistan is situated on a major plate boundary.[4] The location of the country is on the boundary where two tectonic plates, the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate, meet.[5] To the south of Afghanistan, the Indian Plate moves northwards and to the north the Eurasian Plate moves south-eastwards.[4] The collision resulting from the movement of the plates has been under way for 50 million years.[4] Due to this, Afghanistan is vulnerable to earthquakes.[4] Both the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate consists of continental crust, which can neither sink nor be destroyed.[5] As a result, the rocks between the two plates are forced upwards to form mountains.[5] The constant movement of the Iranian Plate results in an increase in pressure.[5] The earthquake on February 4, 1998 was caused by this increase in pressure.[5]

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.[3] 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.[3] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) later put the death toll at 4,000.[3] The anti-Taliban Afghan Embassy in Dushanbe asserted that approximately 15,000 people became homeless[3][6] and dozens of villages were destroyed.[3] Nearly 15,000 houses were destroyed primarily due to the landslides triggered by the quake.[4] Approximately 10,000 people were injured[5] and 6,725 livestock were killed in the earthquake.[2]

Relief efforts[edit]

The Takhar Province was a remote area[3][5] and road transport and telecommunication was poor.[5] So it took three days for the news of the earthquake to reach Kabul.[5] On February 7, reports of the quake began to reach the capital city.[5] 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.[5][6] Reports indicated that survivors were living without shelter in subzero temperature and many were starving.[5] Several villagers were making their way down the mountain tracks along with their herds of goats.[5]

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement sent a team from Dushanbe to the affected region for relief efforts.[3] The first international relief team reached the affected area on February 7[3] and the first United Nations (UN) team arrived there on February 10.[7] 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.[7] Eleven days after the event, on February 16, helicopters were able to drop supplies to three isolated villages.[5] The European Union (EU) offered £1.3m of relief aid including blankets, medical equipment, water and tents.[3] The Taliban ruled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan offered 100 tonnes each of rice and wheat, and approximately £40,000 to the affected region.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Utsu, T. R. (2002), "A List of Deadly Earthquakes in the World: 1500-2000", International Handbook of Earthquake & Engineering Seismology, Part A, Volume 81A (First ed.), Academic Press, p. 710, ISBN 978-0124406520 
  2. ^ a b c Magnitude 5.9 Afghanistan-Tajikistan Border Region 1998 February 04 14:33:21 UTC National Earthquake Information Center
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m 1998: 4,000 feared dead in Afghan earthquake BBC News
  4. ^ a b c d e Peter Webber, Neil Punnett (1999). Physical Geography and People. Nelson Thornes. p. 14. ISBN 0-7487-4303-0. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Neil Punnett, Alison Rae, David Wood, Peter Richardson, John Edwards (2003). The New Wider World. Nelson Thornes. p. 272. ISBN 0-7487-7376-2. 
  6. ^ a b Ahmed Rashid (2002). Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia. I.B.Tauris. p. 230. ISBN 1-86064-830-4. 
  7. ^ a b Afghanistan - Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 7 ReliefWeb