As the death toll from an earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan continued to rise, Pope Francis called for prayers and concrete aid for survivors.
The magnitude-7.5 temblor on Oct. 26 left at least 380 people dead and thousands of homes and buildings badly damaged. The number of dead and injured will likely rise as first-responders reach affected areas. Initial reports indicate significant damage to homes and infrastructure in the hardest-hit areas of Pakistan. The earthquake also cutoff communication in parts of the two countries.
"Let us pray for the dead and their relatives, for all those who are wounded and the homeless," the pope said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square Oct. 28. He asked that God offer consolation and courage to those who were suffering and struggling.
He asked that "these brothers and sisters not be lacking our concrete solidarity."
Catholic Relief Services officials report that the Catholic reliefand development agency was reaching out to the affected areas—especially in Pakistan—to gauge the damage and plan a response. Communication and access to affected areas remains challenging, but information received to date indicates needs for shelter and emergency relief items—especially as winter approaches.
“We are working closely with our partners to evaluate the scope and severity of the destruction,” said CRS Pakistan’s Country Representative Andy Schaefer. “Given that the effected region is mountainous terrain, the threat of landslides is high.”
The earthquake struck Badakshan Province in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains in the afternoon. Heavily affected areas include remote and difficult-to-reach parts of Pakistan’s northern KPK province, which shares a border with Afghanistan. Tremors from the earthquake could be felt as far away as Delhi, hundreds of miles to the south.
CRS continues to assess the worst-affected areas and is obtaining emergency relief items to distribute to 10,000 families.
“The earthquake affected remote areas which is good news and bad news,” Schaefer said. “Good because fewer people are likely to be impacted. Bad because those that are victims are difficult to reach.”