February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake

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February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake
February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake is located in Afghanistan
February 1998 Afghanistan earthquake
Date February 4, 1998 (1998-02-04)
Origin time 14:33:23 UTC [1]
Magnitude 5.9 Mw [1]
Depth 30 km (19 mi) [1]
Epicenter 37°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]
Type Strike-slip [2]
Areas affected Takhar Province, Afghanistan
Total damage Extreme [3]
Max. intensity VII (Very strong) [4]
Casualties 2,323 dead [2]
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.[5] The location of the country is on the boundary where two tectonic plates, the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate, meet.[6] To the south of Afghanistan, the Indian Plate moves northwards and to the north the Eurasian Plate moves south-eastwards.[5] The collision resulting from the movement of the plates has been under way for 50 million years.[5] Due to this, Afghanistan is vulnerable to earthquakes.[5] Both the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate consists of continental crust, which can neither sink nor be destroyed.[6] As a result, the rocks between the two plates are forced upwards to form mountains.[6] The constant movement of the Iranian Plate results in an increase in pressure.[6] The earthquake on February 4, 1998 was caused by this increase in pressure.[6]

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.[7] 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.[7] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) later put the death toll at 4,000.[7] The anti-Taliban Afghan Embassy in Dushanbe asserted that approximately 15,000 people became homeless[7][8] and dozens of villages were destroyed.[7] Nearly 15,000 houses were destroyed primarily due to the landslides.[5] Approximately 818 people were injured and 6,725 livestock were killed.[4]

Relief efforts[edit]

The Takhar Province was a remote area[6][7] and road transport and telecommunication was poor.[6] So it took three days for the news to reach Kabul.[6] On February 7, reports began to reach the capital city.[6] 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.[6][8] Reports indicated that survivors were living without shelter in subzero temperature and many were starving.[6] Several villagers were making their way down the mountain tracks along with their herds of goats.[6]

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement sent a team from Dushanbe to the affected region for relief efforts.[7] The first international relief team reached the affected area on February 7[7] 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.[6] The European Union (EU) offered £1.3m of relief aid including blankets, medical equipment, water and tents.[7] The Taliban ruled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan offered 100 tonnes each of rice and wheat, and approximately £40,000 to the affected region.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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), Significant Earthquake Database, 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 Peter Webber; Neil Punnett (1999). Physical Geography and People. Nelson Thornes. p. 14. ISBN 0-7487-4303-0. 
  6. ^ 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 0-7487-7376-2. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 1998: 4,000 feared dead in Afghan earthquake BBC News
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ a b Afghanistan - Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 7 ReliefWeb