Special Reports
Regional Location:

Preliminary Magnitude:

Greenwich Mean Date:
Greenwich Mean Time:
Focal Depth:


Ms 6.3 (NEIC), Mw 6.0 (NEIC),

4 km

Strong earthquake hits Northeast Afghanistan

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March 26, 2002

An earthquake measuring Ms 6.3 (NEIC), Mw 6.0 (NEIC) occurred at 14:56:33 UTC in the Hindu Kush region of northeastern Afghanistan. Reports indicate the quake shook the region hard, causing significant damage in the epicentral region and killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands.

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According to the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) the earthquake struck at 7:26 p.m. on Monday evening (local time), March 26, about 100 miles north of Kabul and 115 miles southwest of Feyzabad, in the Baghlan Province, some 6 miles south of Nahrin, Afghanistan. See Maps.

Several aftershocks have occurred, including a number in the M5 range that have contributed to the damage and injuries. See a list of earthquakes in central Asia from ASC.

The focal point (area of first motion) was shallow, only 4 km beneath the surface, suggesting a possibility of surface fault ruptures. See The Rupture Zone. It was also the prime reason why buildings suffered such strong shaking. Although Afghanistan receives several large earthquakes each year, many are deep and do not shake with the intensity of shallow earthquakes like this one. See Cross section of epicenters by USGS.

The NEIC fault plane solution indicated high-angled reverse motion (up and over) along a nearly north-south trending plane.

Damage Reports

The scope of the disaster is difficult to determine because of the poor communications and the rugged terrain in the Hindu Kush mountain range. Access roads have been blocked and fly-overs indicate widespread damage.

Preliminary reports indicate widespread damage occurred within about 40 miles of the epicenter, killing at hundreds of people and injuring thousands. Many were killed as they were just finishing dinner and were resting in homes with their families. Photo above source: BBC. See more damage photos: Set An and Set B. Early reports from the region indicated between 1,800 and 5,000 people were killed, but this was later found to be exaggerated by poor communications and over zealous reporting.

Landslides were common and people scattered when rocks came tumbling down slope at high speeds. Dust clouds from the landslides were seen as far away as Kabul and the Panjshir Valley. Aftershocks during the following day caused additional landslides and rock falls. Transportation routes were blocked throughout the region, hampering rescue attempts. One truck hit by a falling rock was knock on its side and blocked an important access road.

One of the hardest hit villages was Nahrin where some reports suggest as many as 90% of the buildings had collapsed or were in complete ruin. The French aid agency ACTED, which had an office in Nahrin, reported that at least 1,500 people had been killed and more than 1,500 were seriously injured just within their vicinity. They also said that at least 10,000 were made homeless. These reports were later found to be inaccurate and revised downward.

Nahrin is divided into two sections, old and new, and most of the damage is said to have occurred in the older sectors, leaving the newer buildings with only scattered structural failures.

ACTED is involved in rural development programs in the district and was the only foreign aid group in the area at the time of the quake. Their offices were also destroyed by the quake. A massive aid operation was slowly grinding into gear to assist the thousands of people forced from their homes, and the untold number of others who have flocked to Nahrin from outlying village in search of help.

ACTED has delivered 500 tents and 1,000 blankets which were flown from Kabul on Tuesday and a further 1,500 tents are expected to arrive Tuesday evening. A convoy of World Food Program trucks carrying 158 metric tons of food left the northern center of Mazar, four hours away, on Tuesday afternoon.

French aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres has set up field hospitals in Nahrin's new city, and an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helicopter left Kabul late Tuesday carrying communications, water engineers and specialists in disaster management.

The U.N. has said it is ready to provide any assistance it can, and offers of help came from Germany, the European Union and the Russian government.

Many Afghans were had just returned to their homes after a prolonged draught had forced them to other parts of the country.

Seismo-Watch is compiling information at will continue to update this report with maps, background material and breaking news.

Additional information links

Mainstream media news reports:
Report update: 9:11:25 AM, Friday, March 29, 2002

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