Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Three Afghanistan Earthquake Survivors Tell Stories of Heartbreak and Loss

The massive earthquake which rocked Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday has claimed more than 300 lives — and devastated countless more. Three Afghans have spoken to NBC News to share their stories of survival and loss.

The tailor from Nangarhar Province

Mohammed Dad was having lunch at his tailor's shop in the village of Sanger Sarye on Monday afternoon, about 100 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.

When the ground began to shake beneath him, the 41-year-old father immediately ran out of the shop. He was desperate to reach his mud home down the street — he knew his three children were there — but was too late to save one.

"As I arrived at home, my brother-in-law, Faridullah, who lives next door, came out of the home covered in dust and told me that my 12-year-old son, Mohammad Ramin, had come under a wall," he said Tuesday by telephone.

Image: Afghan men carry a coffin of an earthquake victim for burial in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan
Afghan men carry the coffin of an earthquake victim in Nangarhar province on Tuesday. PARWIZ / Reuters

"It took us about half hour to get him out from under the rubble — but he was already dead," Dad added through tears. "My home is totally destroyed, but more than that my life has totally been devastated."

He said his son had shown him his grades from English class just a day before the tragedy — the 12-year-old had come in first in his class.

"I promised to make him new clothes as a reward, and in fact I started working on clothes for him when the quake happened," Dad told NBC News. "Those clothes will remain half made forever."

The 6th-grade student in Taloqan

Chaos broke out in 13-year-old Nasreen's sixth-grade class when the earth began to tremble.

"First we thought there was an explosion, but it did not stop so everyone started running," she said. "In the corridor everyone was screaming and fell over each other.... Something hit my head and I fell down."

She said she was only saved by her sister, Metra, who pulled her out of the melee.

"When we reached outside it was still shaking and we kept running to the street," she said. "I lost consciousness and woke up at the hospital."

Twelve of Nasreen's schoolmates — all girls under the age of 16 — were killed during the chaotic stampede at the Bibi Hajra school in Taloqan, less than 70 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.

"I am back home now, but could not go to sleep at all last night," she told NBC News. "I just found out two of my classmates died and several others are at the hospital. I am still shaken, I am scared to go back to the school."

The 58-year-old farmer from Badakhshan province's Yamgan district

Hai Abdul shouted for his wife, daughter-in-law and twin grandsons in the other room as soon as he realized the shaking was not just a passing tremor.

Then, he said, he heard a "big sound like an explosion" and everything went dark. Abdul was pinned under a large rock, unable to move.

"I do not know how long I struggled, but somehow I managed to remove whatever was on me and get out of the pile of rubble and stones," he said. "I did not know what was going on; I thought it was doomsday. I looked around and there was nothing. My home was totally destroyed."

Abdul had a broken arm and injuries to his face — but he didn't realize that at first.

"I did not feel any pain," he explained. He needed to find his family.

Abdul called for help and villagers came to his aid, helping him dig through the rubble.

After two hours, they pulled out the lifeless bodies of his twin grandsons, Mahmoud and Massoud. Several hours later, the bodies of his wife and daughter-in-law were recovered.

Abdul spent the night at a relative's home and buried his family Tuesday morning.

"My life has been ruined within a minute," Abdul said.

Image: Men look for their belongings after an earthquake, in Kishim district of Badakhshan province, Afghanistan
Men look for their belongings in Badakshan province on Tuesday. STRINGER/AFGHANISTAN / Reuters

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