Afghan communities across Canada are rallying to offer support and organize fundraisers following a devastating earthquake in Afghanistan this past Saturday. The quake, which left over 2,000 people reportedly dead, has deeply affected the Afghan diaspora, many of whom have ties to the region.
“A Guilt That You Have”
Farid Teimoury, the vice-president of the Afghan Society of Calgary, encapsulated the feelings of many when he shared his sense of powerlessness watching the tragedy unfold from over 10,000 kilometres away in Alberta.
“It’s a guilt that you have, right? You’re not there to be able to help them out,” Teimoury lamented. He added, “All the disasters that have happened, the fall of the government and the earthquake on top of that, and people being displaced … it’s hurtful, to be honest. And the most we can do is just gather up a couple of dollars and send it out, and hope for the best.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake, measuring a magnitude of 6.3, had its epicentre about 40 kilometres northwest of Herat, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. Striking around 11 a.m. local time, it was followed by a series of potent aftershocks.
The aftermath has been grim, with entire villages flattened, bodies trapped under collapsed buildings, and locals desperately waiting for aid. Distressing videos circulating on social media platforms capture residents trying to free trapped individuals from heaps of rubble using only their hands.
A baby was rescued from the rubble after the devastating earthquake that hit Afghanistan.
According to the latest data, more than 2 thousand people died during the earthquake pic.twitter.com/dbrejHQKvj
— Sprinter (@Sprinter99800) October 8, 2023
How painful is it?💔
Many families are buried alive 😭
Some lucky ones!👇 #WATCH
— Lokesh (@Lokesh_2020V) October 8, 2023
Community Response and Fundraisers
Teimoury was among a group of 35 Afghans in Calgary who gathered into the late hours of Saturday, keeping track of unfolding events. Many, including Teimoury’s wife, hail from the Herat province but have, fortunately, managed to get in touch with their families back home. This group is reconvening on Sunday to finalize the details of a fundraising effort.
Elsewhere, on Canada’s east coast, Afghans in Newfoundland are initiating an online fundraiser via a crowdsourcing platform. Maisam Najafizada, an assistant public health professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, highlighted the shared sentiments of concern and urgency in the community. Referring to the distressing videos online, he said, “It shows the lack of resources and lack of coordination, communication or anything in the 24 hours that have passed so far.”
Government and Organizational Responses
While a Taliban government spokesman cited a death toll of over 2,000, this figure had yet to be independently verified as of Sunday afternoon. If accurate, this places the earthquake among the deadliest the country has experienced in two decades.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, expressed her condolences, stating on the X platform (formerly Twitter), “Canada stands ready to support the Afghan people.” On the same note, Global Affairs Canada announced they were unaware of any Canadians who were harmed in the quake. Meanwhile, Canada’s Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen, conveyed that Ottawa is closely observing the situation.
Our hearts are with the people of Afghanistan as they deal with effects of this devastating earthquake.
Canada stands ready to support the Afghan people. https://t.co/eZBZgJiS0F
— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) October 8, 2023
Doctors Without Borders has been active on the ground, confirming that the quake did not damage the regional hospital in Herat, where they oversee pediatric in-patient wards. The organization has deployed mass casualty kits to cater to up to 400 wounded patients and has also established a medical team at the hospital’s emergency room.