The October 26, 2015 M 7.5 earthquake was focused near the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan with an epicenter 82 kilometers southeast of Fayzabad. The city’s name can be spelled Feyzabad, Fazelabad or Faizabad (Persian: فيض آباد, Pashto:فيض آباد), Fayzabad is the provincial capital and largest city (population estimates vary – 50,000 is a fair guess) of Badakhshan Province. Situated on the Kokcha River, it is the main commercial and administrative center of the Pamir region.
There is some debate about the magnitude – Pakistan asserts it was 8.1, but the US Geological Survey initially published a rating of 7.7 and has since downgraded twice – from 7.6 to 7.5. Somewhat academic to the 400 people killed and 3000 injured.
The relatively good news is this earthquake was deep (technically intermediate): approximately 210 kilometers below the surface. The Kashmir 2005 earthquake had similar magnitude (7.6) and was also in October but was shallow – only 15 kilometers. It resulted in 87,351 deaths, 75,266 injured, 2.8 million people being displaced, and 250,000 farm animals dying. The cause for these and similar events is the Indian subcontinent is moving northward about 35 millimeters (about one and a half inches) per year and colliding with Eurasia.
There have been at least 12 other M 7 or greater earthquakes in the region in the last century (the April 2015 disaster in Nepal should not be forgotten):
- M 7.4 in March 2002 centered 20 kilometer west with similar geological properties – 166 killed and 700 houses damaged or destroyed on March 3. There’s debate whether the M 6.1 that struck abut 50 miles away on March 25 was an aftershock. It killed over 1,000 people, injured 400 and damaged or destroyed 2000 houses.
- M 8.1 1934 Bihar killed 11,000
- M 7.5 1905 Kangra killed over 20,000 people, damaged or destroyed 100,000 houses.
- M 8.6 1950 Assam killed 3300
- M 7.6 1935 Quetta killed between 30,000 and 60,000 people.
- M 7.4 1911 Sarez killed 90
- M 7.3 1902 Atushi killed an estimated 5,000 people.
- M 7.6 1997 Manyi killed 200
- M 7.8 2001 Kokoxili kille 20,203
- M 7.8 1920 Haiyuan Fault killed 200,000 people
- M 7.6 1927 Haiyuan killed 40,912
- M 7.9 2008 Wenchuan killed over 87,000 people and caused billions of US dollars in damage
note that there were two local earthquakes below M 7.0 that killed 6323 people combined in 1998. Another factor to consider is that as time goes on, the environments become target rich – there are more people and more buildings