Bay Area Afghans and Pakistanis Reach Out to Relatives After Earthquake

Hours after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake rocked Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, Bay Area immigrants from those countries reached out to relatives overseas, hoping they were OK.

Rona Popal, executive director of the Afghan Coalition in Fremont, was on the phone trying to check in with a cousin, to no avail. And down the road on Fremont Boulevard, Asad Saleh, owner of the Little Kabul Market, said customers are coming in to buy calling cards to reach their families. Some are worried, he added, because they have relatives in mountain regions that they haven't been able to reach.

And Mohammad Aboobaker, president of the Pakistani American Culture Center in Milpitas, and others at the center made several phone calls to relatives in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, and were relieved to find out they were safe.

Aboobaker said he wanted to wait a few days to see what was needed in his home country, before sending money. But he expected his organization would collect funds within the next week.

The quake struck Monday about 2 a.m. PST, in the northeastern part of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, killing more than 250 people and flattening 1,400 buildings, NBC News reported. The victims included 12 girls who were students at a school in the Afghan province of Takhar, officials said.

The Bay Area is home to large immigrant groups. Fremont is home to one of the largest influxes of Afghans outside the country itself. Local leaders estimate there are between 40,000 to 60,000 Afghans in the Bay Area, and about that number of Pakistanis, as well, local leaders say. 

More information on how people in the Bay Area can donate goods is available on the Hidaya Foundation website.

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