Afghans living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are inconsolable following the devastating earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan on June 22 and left 1,000 people dead and 1,500 injured.
The rugged, hilly Gayan and Barmal districts in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika, Khost, and Nangarhar provinces, which are close to the Pakistani border, were directly hit by the magnitude 5.9 earthquake.
The death toll from this catastrophe is the highest in the area in many years.
Local Afghan entrepreneur and journalist Nasir Khalid said everyone in the GTA’s roughly 110,000-member Afghan community is crushed by this news from back home.
“We are all really sad, really upset about what has happened,” said Khalid, a well-known local Afghan leader who administers the popular “Afghan Community in Toronto” Facebook group.
“For me, everybody in Afghanistan is part of my family and anything that happens to them I feel affected.”
Khalid said at this early stage, details about the earthquake are still emerging, but it doesn’t look good.
“It’s a big loss. There’s massive devastation,” he said.
“Nobody knows who has been killed, who has been injured, and who is alive. Everyone is worried about their family.”
Khalid said people in the GTA are especially concerned about their loved ones impacted by this earthquake as the Taliban does not have infrastructure or response systems in place, adequate equipment, nor the experience to properly handle this kind of crisis.
“It’s a really sad situation,” he said.
Asma Faizi, president of the Afghan Women’s Association, said this disaster comes during a time when her homeland is already in a state of deep turmoil.
“(This earthquake) is devastating for our people. As you know for the past year or so given the recent crisis, there’s been so much going on inside Afghanistan already as a result of the four decades of the war, the COVID, the recent crisis. Afghanistan was also in the middle of the second drought in years and now to have this on top of it has been devastating for the community here,” Faizi told CP24, adding what has happened is really taking a toll on people’s already eroded mental health and wellbeing.
“To have this additional disaster happening at this time when it’s such a dire situation in Afghanistan is just devastating.”
Faizi said several local and international organizations and agencies are collecting funds to assist those directly affected by this disaster. She urged people to contribute what they can and is hoping the Canadian government will match those funds.
“We know there’s issues with the Taliban and people don’t want to send money inside Afghanistan, but this is a humanitarian crisis. Even the Taliban are asking for help because of the magnitude of what’s going on,” said Faizi, who is also urging the international community to immediately step in and provide humanitarian relief in Afghanistan.
Speaking to CP24, Imam Mahammad Noori, president of Etobicoke-based Afghan Muslim Immigrant Aid, offered his condolences to everyone who lost a loved one in this disaster and well wishes to all who have been injured.
Noori said Afghan leaders in the GTA will be meeting Friday to plan some local fundraising events for Afghanistan.