Afghanistan Earthquake 21 June 2022

There was an earthquake on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border overnight. While not especially strong (M5.9), the combination of poor construction and economic distress from decades of war means this will be a disaster far out of proportion to what the raw numbers will show. Here is the impact zone …

click to enlarge.

The computer models indicate casualties are on the order of 3000, with approximately 1000 of those killed. Initial reports are of 920 deaths (BBC article), so that seems the right order of magnitude. On paper, economic impacts should be on the order of $100 Million USD. And here is the first indication of why the usual metrics don’t work: The problem with Afghanistan at the moment is that the economy is essentially dysfunctional. GDP and economic metrics just don’t work. Economic sanctions and the impounded resources and frozen aid programs resulting from the return of the Taliban to control of the country means that something like a third to half of the country cannot meet basic food needs. So like many disasters, this is a failure of governance as much as natural forces.

Unfortunately this earthquake will likely result in a tremendous amount of additional suffering that will almost certainly drop off the media radar given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, pending domestic turmoil over US Supreme Court decisions, and it being an election year.

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