Massive earthquake strikes Afghanistan and Pakistan

GlobalPost
Updated on
Stranded drivers wait in their vehicles after an earthquake in Srinagar on Oct. 26, 2015.

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NEED TO KNOW:

A massive 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Afghanistan this morning. The quake has so far killed at least 200 people. Hundreds more have been injured.

Cell phone service is out in the areas closest to the epicenter, so aid organizations are expecting the death toll to rise as more information starts arriving from the region. A local leader from the Hindu Kush region told NBC News that “many homes were destroyed.”

The quake was so powerful it was felt in Pakistan, where at least 123 people were killed, and in India and elsewhere in South Asia. Buildings in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, shook violently. Traffic came to a standstill and frightened residents poured out of buildings into the streets. One resident of Kabul said on Twitter that it was one of the longest and most powerful earthquakes he had ever felt. That’s saying a lot in Afghanistan, where large earthquakes happen frequently. So far, however, there have been no reports of major damage in the city. Aftershocks continue to rattle the region.

This latest quake comes almost exactly six months after a devastating earthquake struck Nepal, killing 9,000 people and leveling close to a million homes. The whole region’s seismic activity is volatile because the Indian subcontinent, which is essentially one big tectonic plate, is driving into and under the Eurasian landmass.

Countries like Iran, Pakistan, India and other parts of the region have all suffered incredible destruction from earthquakes. The most recent major earthquake was in 2005 in northern Pakistan. It killed 75,000 people.  

WANT TO KNOW:

European leaders are still struggling to figure out what to do about the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming through Turkey and Greece, and up into the Balkans, on their way to Western Europe.

On Sunday the leaders of 11 countries — which are all on the route from Greece to Germany that many refugees are taking — held a really tense meeting in Brussels. The result? The 11 governments “pledged” to work together.

The problem is that Western Europe doesn’t want the refugees. It would rather pay Greece and Turkey and the Balkans to deal with the problem. Turkey, which is already hosting some 2 million Syrian refugees, has bristled at the idea, calling on the rest of Europe to open their doors to more people.

Out of the meeting in Brussels also came an agreement to help Greece fund homes for an additional 30,000 refugees. Leaders from the Western European countries then said they’d be willing to share the burden of another 50,000 people. That’s not nearly enough, however.

So far this year half a million people have crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece, where they have passed through mostly unregistered to the Balkans. Overwhelmed, some of those Balkan countries have shut their borders, leaving many thousands of people stranded. Now the winter is coming. The situation could get much worse very quickly if these European leaders can’t come to some kind of meaningful compromise soon.

In fact, the very integrity of the European Union may be under threat. Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said during the meeting: "If we don’t deliver concrete action, I believe Europe will start falling apart."

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

Vienna’s public housing is some of the best public housing in the world. These are the projects of Austria, and they are sought after by rich and poor alike.

That’s because Austria, with a population of 8 million, spends a whopping 600 million euros a year on subsidized housing. Germany, to compare, has a population 45 times the size of Austria but spends only 400 million euros.

As a result, not only do rich and poor live side-by-side, they enjoy all the same amenities. And the amenities are amazing: pools, saunas, jacuzzis, gyms, gardens, you name it. These buildings are a long way from the brutal housing projects you find in the United States.